Green Bay, WI - A Green Bay Catholic Bishop took time Sunday to a read a letter during Mass, calling on Catholics in Northeast Wisconsin to take action against new healthcare regulations. The regulations Bishop David Ricken is opposing come from the Dept. of Health and Human Services, which announced this week most church-affiliated groups will be required to offer their workers coverage, that includes contraception plans.
Under the new law churches and other employers with a religious base have a year to comply with the changes so they have time to adapt, but the bishop said they can never adapt.
"It's a direct disconnect against our principles, our philosophy, our background, our teaching,” said Ricken. "If we don't protect the rights to religious liberty for all faiths we're going to be in trouble as a nation."
After he read the letter to the congregation Sunday, a stand ovation followed. Ellen Mommarts was in the crowd.
"It's a violation of our rights,” she said. "It's forcing us to do something completely against our religion and that's not fair."
Bob Atwell agreed. He said he’s worried a step like this could lead to a future of further rules and regulations against religion, and he said that's not what government is designed to do.
"It's really a frontal assault on our first amendment rights,” said Atwell. “It's by the people, for the people, and it doesn't exist to take away our rights, it's designed to protect our rights.”
Planned Parenthood responded to the church’s opposition. In a statement to NBC26, they said, “Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin applauds the decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services to ensure access to affordable birth control, and not further expand the refusal provision to the birth control coverage benefit under the Affordable Care Act.”
They add, “Planned Parenthood believes all women, regardless of their employer, should be able to access the birth control coverage benefit. That’s why Planned Parenthood opposes the current provision that allows religious employers like churches and church associations to deny this important and economically valuable benefit to their employees. Planned Parenthood also disagrees with adding the one year waiver provision to the final rule.”
People we spoke to who attended the Mass said they have faith in the church to keep these rules from going into effect. The next step is a Bishop's Conference where Ricken said they will develop a plan to oppose the rules in a Democratic way.