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Church leaders welcome leaked HHS draft lifting contraceptive mandate


A group of Little Sisters of the Poor are joined by other women as they walk down the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in 2016 after attending oral arguments in the Zubik v. Burwell contraceptive mandate case. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A leaked draft rule from the Department of Health and Human Services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act was welcomed by church officials and attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that challenged the mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a June 1 statement that the leaked draft has "yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication," but it provides encouraging news.

"Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed," he said.

The archbishop noted that if the ruling is issued it would "lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions."

He also said the draft of the HHS regulations reflects common sense and a long-held practice of the federal government to provide strong conscience protection in the area of health care.

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