The Catholic Church does not seek to dominate, control or convert the United States of America as a whole or any individual state within it, including New Jersey.  It merely wants its members to be allowed to live and practice their faith in the freedom that was envisioned, encouraged and enjoyed by American citizens from the very beginning of our country, without governmental interference.  That is all. 

Although the founding fathers and mothers of our nation acknowledged their belief in God, they did not want a state-imposed religion of any denomination or stripe.  And, so, we have lived our lives for well over two centuries in a republic of religious freedom and tolerance, not force or coercion.  

Legislation proposed in the New Jersey State Legislature – S3804/A5508 – raises serious concerns that put that religious freedom in jeopardy.  In an attempt to provide a state version of the federal Affordable Care Act, this legislation would require insurance coverage to include contraceptive and abortifacient drugs that violate Catholic and other religions’ moral teachings and beliefs.  To accomplish that goal, it would eliminate the religious employers’ exemption currently contained in New Jersey law that respects such moral teachings and beliefs. 

The Catholic Church has consistently supported universal, affordable health care.  As the Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, on behalf of the Catholic community I lead, I am not seeking something new from our state Legislature.  I am simply asking that the religious employers’ exemption that is currently part of state law be maintained and protected as a continuing expression of religious freedom in our state. 

I invite Catholics in the Diocese to contact their senators (njcatholic.org) to urge them to vote “no” on this proposed legislation to change the current law, and to protect our parishes, institutions and organizations from this proposed intrusion upon our religious beliefs and religious freedoms.