“We continue to be concerned and object to the Health and Human Services mandate that is requiring employers, including Catholic entities, to include contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization in their health care plans,” said Pat Chivers, a spokeswoman with the Archdiocese of Atlanta in Smyrna.
Father Tim Hepburn, vocations director for the Smyrna Archdiocese location, said he has heard from several people about the law, both before and after the ruling.
“I’m telling people that the truth wins in the end and to work towards that and pray for it,” he said. “We want affordable health care, just not this mandate.”
Objections to the law have spawned about 16 national lawsuits, 12 of which are from Catholic organizations.
Chivers said the Atlanta archdiocese is not involved in the lawsuit because they didn’t feel the need to file when 12 others were, but they are among 195 archdioceses in the United States who support the lawsuit.
In light of the law, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also organized the Fortnight for Freedom, which runs from June 21 to July 4 and is a time when people of the Catholic faith may pray, fast or take the catechesis, which means to take time to learn about their faith.
“This was an attack on our religion freedoms,” Chivers said. “Our church teaches natural family planning, which is 98 percent effective … a whole lot more than the pill. We teach it as God’s law.”
Chivers said Catholics realize that people are going to use contraceptives, but they don’t want the federal government telling them that they must provide it to their employees, whether they work in a Catholic charity, church or at the Archdiocese, like she does.
“The Catholic church doesn’t want to pay for … contraception,” she said. “We consider it a cooperation with evil. We have been told that many Catholics do use birth control, but they can do that at their own expense.”
The Archdiocese of Atlanta serves around one million Catholics, about 85,000 of whom live in Cobb County.
JoAnn Birrell, the northeast Cobb commissioner, has attended the Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta for the last six years.
“I definitely don’t agree with the Supreme Court decision to uphold Obamacare, as a Republican or a Catholic,” said Birrell, who has been Catholic all her life. “To me, it’s interfering with individual rights.”
Birrell believes it’s unconstitutional to force people to pay into a health care system that funds abortion when her faith is pro-life.
“That’s where my beliefs are and where the Catholic church is coming from,” she said.
Larry Burke, who has attended St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Marietta for the last 20 years, said he objects to “government interference with my right to make choices regarding health care.”
“From a religious standpoint, I absolutely object to government requiring a religious organization, such as the Catholic church, to fund a health care system that provides services which are contrary to our fundamental religious beliefs and absolutely violates our moral ethics,” he said.
Burke is an usher at St. Joseph’s, president of St. Vincent de Taul and a member of Knights of Columbus. He is also an associate judge in Marietta City Court and is running for state court judge.
The Acworth native said he foresees organizations closing because of the law.
“As an institution, the problem for the Catholic Church is it would rather close down any facilities such as a school that is going to be mandated to provide abortion services rather than continuing that entity,” Burke said. “There are so many good organizations within the Catholic church — schools, homeless organizations and overseas organizations for less fortunate areas. All those programs potentially will be shut down rather than support a system that will violate Catholic beliefs.”