Religious liberty is not optional

With tweets and text messages, prayers and preaching, Catholics and other Americans will spend the next two weeks (June 21-July … Continued

With tweets and text messages, prayers and preaching, Catholics and other Americans will spend the next two weeks (June 21-July 4) launching a religious freedom awareness campaign called the “Fortnight for Freedom.

Concern for religious freedom both here and abroad has been growing for years, and now there are calls for immediate action. Stories of people literally dying for the faith in Iraq and Nigeria can be found in daily newspapers. There, churches are bombed and the blood of martyrs runs freely.

Here in the United States, our concern arises from far less dire–yet still very serious–threats to our own free exercise of religion. We are blessed in our nation to call this our “First Freedom.” It is listed at the top of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, and reinforced by so many other laws protecting the freedom of belief, worship, and action. In short, these laws protect us from being punished by the government for living in accord with our religious beliefs.

The most visible threat currently is the HHS mandate, which forces people and groups to fund and facilitate services to which they object in conscience. Making matters worse, this mandate exempts some from that coercion, based on a definition of religious ministry that is extremely narrow and unprecedented in federal law.

According to HHS, an entity deserves religious freedom only if it primarily hires and primarily serves its co-religionists. But the state has no competence or authority to define the church and her ministries, let alone to impose on her such a restrictive, inward-looking definition.

This definition is a blow to any religious community, but especially to Catholics, who are called to serve anyone in need. As we often say, we serve people because we are Catholic, not because they are. It is why so many Catholic schools enroll so many non-Catholics; Catholic hospitals don’t ask for baptismal certificates upon admission; and Catholic soup kitchens don’t quiz the hungry on the Catechism.

But the mandate is not the only problem. Last year, HHS chose to deny federal grants to an otherwise much better qualified provider of services to victims of human trafficking, because that provider could not, in conscience, facilitate the provision of abortion or contraception. In other words, faithful Catholics need not apply.

And the federal government is not the only problem either. In Alabama and other states anti-immigrant legislation is so draconian as to make it a crime to give basic help–such as food, or a ride to church, or counseling–to an undocumented immigrant. This imperils the good work of pastors who are called to care for all souls, not just those recognized by government.

The bishops of the United States hope that the fortnight will be an opportunity to educate people on religious liberty, as understood in the teachings of our church and the heritage of our nation; to pray together for this precious liberty; and to speak out so as to join with fellow Americans in assuring its preservation for generations to come.

Doug Kapustin

FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Archbishop Lori of Baltimore chairs the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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  • civilwhat?

    Well, this is the way Archbishop’s get Cardinal hats. The most honest solution to this “religious liberty” issue is for the Catholic Church to maintain its heritage of helping others but not with federal funds. Other than contraception and money, the Church seems blind to violations of its doctrines and social teachings. Where was Lori when the Governor of Wisconsin was savaging the unions which are upheld from Rerum Novarum onward in Catholic teaching? Where are the bishops when the President supports immigrants? Why dd Archbishop Wenski (who gave an invocation at the Republican Convention) give a good job credit to Obama on immigration but then take it back by saying Rubio said it first…which we all know he didn’t. These fellows need a few good courses in social ethics as well as a solid course in separation of church and state. Their partisanship is showing and that alone should negate their tax exeptions.

  • swanieva

    Complete B S.

    And I’ll bet he believes the government should stay out of the pedophile problem too.

    The church is losing its hold, and being lead by a former Nazi Youth member, they should have plenty of nefarious and illegal actions they can still take to effectively enslave the masses of their believers, and keep the women barefoot and pregnant.

    When I took my cathecism lessons, we were taught that anybody who dies a non-Catholic, dies amongst the enemies of Christ.

    What complete imbeciles dressed in frocks . . . . .

    ./

  • DavidJ9

    So another bishop tries his hand at hiding his oppressive agenda behind the false defense of religious liberty. How shameful. If you really cared about those you were serving, you would not be attacking the nuns who do the work or refusing to pay for reasonable health care programs for your employees.

  • DavidJ9

    Remember that he is sworn to support a foreign power.

  • JFT1

    Isn’t there something very 1984-ish, something very surreal and even creepy about an organization that allows no dissent, that excludes women from its leadership ranks, that condemns homosexuals yet so many priests are gay preaching to the United States about religious liberty. Liberty? Freedom? I don’t know which is more offensive: that this group of men – and only men-who brook no discussion let alone dissent, have the gall to wrap themselves in the American flag when they are a medieval aristrocracy run from a foreign government or that so many Americans are duped.

    Can anyone name another institution or government in history with the size and power of the Church that was able to reform from within? THere are an increasing number of Catholics calling on those of us who have serious problems with the state of the Church to leave. Perhaps they are right. Mr. Donohue at the Catholic League also says we should leave and who cares anyway since, according to him, we don’t contribute financially. Maybe he is right, too, and the Catholic Church is on the path to becoming a small, more rigid, backward, and marginilzed entity, that has no real power to influence because it chose to sacrifice the opportunity to be a moral voice in a vain and futile attempt to weild power. Wealthy orthodox Catholics may still contribute but will a Church that meets this discription be able to be a moral voice? And how is that serving the Lord? Seems very self-serving to me.

  • JFT1

    meanwhile,

    Connecticut Bishops Ian T. Douglas, Laura J. Ahrens and James E. Curry during an April 3 public witness in Hartford, Conn., marking the Stations of the Cross and protesting the state’s death penalty. The Diocese of Connecticut organized the public witness attended by some 200 people. Connecticut has since abolished the death penalty.

    A landmark three-day Christian-Muslim peace conference concluded on a hopeful note here by issuing an appeal to religious leaders and institutions to collaborate on promoting human rights, self-determination, peaceful co-existence, and non-violence, particularly in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Among those debating the plan of action at the Beirut Summit were, from left: retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey; Sanaa Makhlouf of American University Cairo; Clare Amos, inter-religious program executive of the World Council of Churches; Mufti Malek Shaar of Tripoli and North Lebanon; and the Rev. Chloe Breyer, Episcopal priest and executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York.

    A retired Episcopal bishop and a priest from the Episcopal Diocese of New York were among seven people convicted June 18 on charges of trespassing on property owned by Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, during a Dec. 17 Occupy Wall Street demonstration and sentenced to four days of community service.

  • stephennyc

    The bishop’s soft polemic may seem reasonable; sadly, it’s specious. It’s specious because the bishop is writing about activities that fall far outside the constitutional definition of free expression. That definition, btw, has developed over 200 years of constitutional jurisprudence. The definition is not what one side of a political debate comes up with for a particular calendar year.

    The bishop also deceives about the federal grants. Catholic organizations didn’t lose the grants because of some government action. Catholic organizations didn’t qualify for the grants. To use the bishop’s style of argument, it’s like someone applying for a secretary position who can’t type or work a computer. It’s not the company’s fault, it’s the applicants. they didn’t meet contract requirements.

    The “Fortnight of Freedom” is part of a larger political campaign by the bishops to make birth control harder to get and abortions harder to have. The appropriate way to consider the bishop’s article is as a long political advertisement. And we all know how honest they are.

  • afilv

    There are religious groups that proscribe blood transfusions for their members. Should they be allowed to eliminate that service from their health insurance policies?

  • Rongoklunk

    There’s so much to admire about the new Catholic Church especially that they don’t torture people anymore, or burn them at the stake, or drown witches. Let’s face it – that’s real progress. Being nice beats being nasty. Pity about all those sexually-abused children.

  • Secular1

    Mr. Lori, the clown in the gown, is a real hypocrite. Lets see some of his harangues. He starts of this “Here in the United States, our concern arises from far less dire–yet still very serious–threats to our own free exercise of religion. We are blessed in our nation to call this our “First Freedom.” It is listed at the top of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, and reinforced by so many other laws protecting the freedom of belief, worship, and action. In short, these laws protect us from being punished by the government for living in accord with our religious beliefs.” This dimwit is only concerned about his rights to his beliefs and if they trample on others beliefs thats too bad, as long as he does not have to compromise on his.beliefs, while screwing the others.

    “The most visible threat currently is the HHS mandate, which forces people and groups to fund and facilitate services to which they object in conscience. Making matters worse, this mandate exempts some from that coercion, based on a definition of religious ministry that is extremely narrow and unprecedented in federal law.

    According to HHS, an entity deserves religious freedom only if it primarily hires and primarily serves its co-religionists. But the state has no competence or authority to define the church and her ministries, let alone to impose on her such a restrictive, inward-looking definition.” Again the reality of the situation in America is that people by and large get their health care needs provided by their employers. Given that the so called exclusive exercise of these “Clowns in the gowns” notion of the absolute rights to their beliefs and screw the rest of their beliefs.

    “This definition is a blow to any religious community, but especially to Catholics, who are called to serve anyone in need. As we often say, we serve people because we are Catholic, not because they are. It is why so many Catholic schools enroll so many non-Catholics; Catholic hospitals don’t ask for baptismal cert

  • jamalmstrom

    I agree that religious freedom is not optional which is why I disagree with you on just about everything else. If the Catholic hierarchy had their way, the rest of us would have to bow our consciences to their dictate. Apparently freedom only extends as far as you, Archbishop Lori, wants it to extend.

  • Kingofkings1

    When your personal belief that dictates your behavior (sharia) is in conflict with the state law, almost always, except in a theocratic state, the state wins

  • nkri401

    Reading this article, one would think that Catholic Church invented 1st amendment right…

  • tandjleighton

    Ridiculous. The dictate is coming from the federal government, not the other way around.
    Why do people with so little grasp of the facts feel so emboldened to make up stuff just to justify their religious bigotry?
    Read the Bill of Rights, people. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”

  • tandjleighton

    Amelia45, if you are really a Catholic then you should heed what our Catechism teaches about having well-formed consciences:

    “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. (1783)

    Your cafeteria Catholic attitude is not uncommon, but that doesn’t make it morally correct — wow, and thinking that the “community” should decide morality? Wrong. Just wrong. It’s one thing to dissent from the Church’s moral teachings, but don’t presume to be arguing from “within” and in good standing when you are in fact in opposition to the Church. “Called to discernment,” what fiction.

    “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
    -St. Augustine

  • leibowde84

    First of all, employers won’t be providing any birth control … insurance companies will be. And, since premiums are always cheaper when birth control is provided, these christian employers will literally be paying less in premiums if they merely give their employees the option of using birth control. Second, this law in no way prohibits the free exercise of religion. The establishment clause doesn’t give anyone the right to disregard civil law simply because it offends their personal beliefs. When this issue has been brought before the supreme court in the past, the state has always won, and for good reason. The needs of the people should outweigh the religious opinions of a small few.

  • leibowde84

    The government isn’t forcing anyone to use birth control. The mandate simply required INSURANCE COMPANIES to make the option available. I don’t understand what the big deal is. Birth control is beneficial to society as a whole and should be openly available. It is better for the future economy and it empowers women in a profound way. If the catholic church doesn’t like it, that is their prerogative, but they should never have the ability to take away this moral decision from their employees. Employees should always make moral decisions … not employers. That’s what this issue boils down to.

  • leibowde84

    The Vatican does what you are talking about all the time. What about Judge lest ye be judged?

  • bpai_99

    The greatest threat to religious freedom in the US is the Christian Right. It used the McCarthyism scare as a means to get the words “Under God” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance over 50 years ago; is now undermining school curricula across the nation and demonizing Muslims. There is no more intolerant and hate-filled voting bloc in America today than the Christian Right.

  • bpai_99

    “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” – Adolf Hitler

  • rhhenry

    The blatant anti-Catholicism represented in these comments is reprehensible and sad. I support your right to say whatever you want, but the knee-jerk the-Catholic-Church-is-always-evil comments do not advance your argument (such as it is) one whit. Rather, you come across as non-thinking bigots. Sad, that this is how you are using our First Amendment rights — using free speech to attack we Catholics who want to exercise our equally valid First Amendment rights of religious liberty.

  • nkri401

    The blatant anti-Catholicism represented in these comments is really due to the misrepresentation of “religious freedom” by someone like Bishop Lori who is learned to know better.

    It’s really disingenuous for the Bishop to present 1st amendment as if it’s a Catholic tenet.

    If you don’t intent to respect my religious freedom why do you expect your freedom to be respected?

    I wish you to live free so that I may live free.

    Peace…

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Go back to literally any point in history up to about two hundred years ago and tell someone this same sob story about how you feel persecuted and mistreated as a Catholic and see what type of reaction you get. Your church is the most historically significant proponent of persecution, oppression, superstition, prejudice and violence in the entire narrative of humanity.

  • john1513

    Amen rhhenry.

    XVIIHailSkins, learn some history, preferably about the 20th century as the deadliest century known to man brought to you by secular governments and dictators. Then get back to me.

    Then go back in history and tell someone that the U.S. president is forcing Catholics, their institutions, and their businesses to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Have you heard of freedom?