The National Clergy Council, representing church leaders of Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Protestant church traditions, has declared a State of Emergency for Churches in response to the order by President Barack Obama for religious organizations to compromise their religious and moral beliefs by complying with a mandate to provide employees with certain forms of insurance coverage.
In recent days, Jewish rabbis have joined Catholic bishops in the United States in expressing alarm over the President's "healthcare" mandates and other violations of the Constitution. The National Clergy Council deliberated for the last week on what it would do, consulting pastors, moral theologians, organizational executives and activists from around the US. As a result, the Reverend Rob Schenck, president of the Washington, DC based group, will begin the holy season of Lent 2012 by appealing to President Obama for answers with a "State of Emergency and Time for Speaking" declaration to be hand-delivered to the White House on Ash Wednesday morning, February 22, 2012.
Speaking for the Council, Rev. Schenck says in his communique to the President, "[W]e state to you our unwavering position on the sanctity of our constitutionally protected right to espouse certain principles of conscience; and, we maintain and insist on our God-given, moral rights to act upon these principles of conscience within our respective institutions and in keeping with their attendant prerogatives; Furthermore, while we hope for a resolution to this crisis that includes the rescinding of your directives, we must hold to our convictions and positions and act according to our prerogatives no matter the legal, social, pecuniary, or political consequences."
As Rev. Schenck explains in the document, the action he and his committee have taken is inspired by the Nazi-era hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "the German pastor and martyr, who is an exemplar of what it means to hold to and to exercise one's religious, moral, and ethical convictions, even to the surrender of every other right, including the right to one's life." Bonhoeffer wrote on the "status confessionis," a time when churches must speak out. Schenck says in his letter this is such a time, "during which we must take extraordinary action to respectfully resist your decrees, state our deeply held and felt reasons for doing so, and call our coreligionists, and all people of conscience to stand with us." President Obama was publicly given a copy of a recent biography on Bonhoeffer by the author, Eric Metaxas, when Mr. Metaxas and the President shared a podium at the February 2 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
Rev. Schenck is currently writing his doctoral thesis on Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Faith Evangelical College and Seminary of Tacoma, WA. The spokespersons for this National Clergy Council on this subject are the Reverend Dr. Charles Nestor, senior fellow for public policy, 863-698-2270, or email@example.com, and the Reverend Norm Lund, Ph.D., Lutheran moral theologian and advisor on the theology of church and state, 425-402-9624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.