‘Fortnight for Freedom’ distorts true religious liberty

Patrick Semansky AP Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, left, is seen in a television camera viewfinder belonging to Eternal Word Television … Continued

Patrick Semansky

AP

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, left, is seen in a television camera viewfinder belonging to Eternal Word Television Network, a Roman Catholic network, as he offers communion to a parishioner during a liturgy in Baltimore, Thursday, June 21, 2012. The liturgy was held to kick off the “Fortnight For Freedom,” a two-week, national campaign to draw attention to religious freedom.

Recently, anti-LGBT activist Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association boldly claimed on his radio show that “[w]e can’t have homosexuality and the First Amendment.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says pretty much the same thing about equal benefits for women when they rail against the Obama administration’s new rules requiring insurance plans to cover birth control. This type of argument is getting a lot of play lately, and it’s often accepted uncritically – despite the fact that it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment and its protections for religious liberty. Unfortunately, it’s a misunderstanding we’ve seen in past civil rights struggles – but fortunately, it’s also one that we’ve resoundingly rejected.

Drawing on this theme, the bishops this week kicked off their “Fortnight for Freedom.” It’s a much-hyped campaign that purports to champion religious freedom, but in actuality distorts it by promoting the use of religion as a license to discriminate. The bishops have made headlines lately for their vociferous opposition to contraception. They argue that because Catholic doctrine opposes birth control, no woman should be guaranteed coverage of it in her health plan. But their agenda goes much further than contraception.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who chairs the bishops’ conference, recently took the president to task for his support of marriage for same-sex couples, and the bishops have been forcefully advocating that Catholic agencies should be able to get government contracts while refusing to perform the required work. In other words, they believe that a Catholic charity that receives public funding to provide adoption licenses, for example, should be able to turn away otherwise qualified same-sex couples who want to provide loving homes to children in need. On all these fronts, the bishops claim that this is about religious liberty. Don’t be fooled. It’s about discrimination plain and simple. And it’s not the first time this has happened.

From the birth of the civil rights movement, some opponents of those rights argued that their religion required them to discriminate against others. Restaurants wanted out of laws requiring businesses that are open to the public to treat everyone equally regardless of race. They claimed that religion compelled them to segregate their establishments, and asserted that the First Amendment required the government to put civil rights laws aside.

Likewise, in justifying the miscegenation laws that prohibited mixed-race marriages, the trial court in
Loving v. Virginia
noted that “Almighty God created the races … and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Though that opinion was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark ACLU case in 1967, such objections were deeply rooted. Indeed, the Bible was long used to defend the practice of slavery.

The same arguments were used to exclude women from public life. In 1869, the Illinois Supreme Court famously explained that it was a commonly held belief that “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action,” when it upheld a law that prevented women from becoming lawyers. More recently, schools have tried to get out of the Equal Pay Act so that they could pay male employees more, because scripture teaches that only men can be the “head of the household.” And in the last few months, we’ve seen a rash of stories about religiously-identified schools firing unmarried teachers for being pregnant, or married teachers for using in vitro fertilization to try to start a family.

These claims are all borne out of the same world view – that “religion” justifies treating certain segments of our society as second-class citizens. It animates the bishops’ campaign and others like it. And it’s that world view that threatens to undermine the progress we’ve made, and that we continue to press for, toward equality and fairness for all people. As a nation, we rejected it when it came to integration, and we must reject it now.

Campaigns like the so-called “Fortnight for Freedom” are all the more dangerous because they call upon and then distort the meaning of true religious liberty. We have the right to a government that neither promotes nor disparages religion generally, nor any faith, in particular. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion. And we have the right to act on our religious beliefs – unless those actions harm others.

We can have the First Amendment and strong protections against discrimination. But we cannot allow the bishops or anyone else to redraft the terms of religious liberty according to the dictates of one set of religious beliefs. That would be the end of the First Amendment and religious freedom as we have all come to know it.

Laura W. Murphy is director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

  • quiensabe

    Homosexuals can be homosexuals without forcing religions to accept the practice. This does not redraft the terms of religious liberty and has no relation to slavery or civil rights.

  • DavidJ9

    But the Vatican thinks that it runs the world and that the USA must bow down to Benedict.

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    LAURA W. MURPHY
    GAY MARRIAGE:
    Chairman of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, recently took the president to task for his support for Gay Marriage. “This is, about discrimination plain and simple.”

    ANS Romans 1:24cf,”Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves” Does God discriminate?

    Gay Marriage (G/M) is an oxymoron, a contrivance of man’s attempt to justify one’s lust for another, an inadvertent undermining of the institute of true Marriage written by God in the Natural Moral Law (NML). Moreover, it is a detriment to human life and society that offers no benefit to society or mankind while it undermines and trivializes the natural integrity and sanctity of Marriage and the God who authors it.

    G/M is a facade that is based in the debaucherous vice of Lust to justify the illicit sexual unions of the same sex, a detriment to the family, society and the social order. No unjustified discrimination exists because Marriage is a union of nature primarily for the propagation of the human race between a man and woman who in true love ultimately will for each other the good of eternal happiness, the end all human life. However, gay sex frustrates man’s achievement of this eternal end because it violates God’s NML and hence becomes an obstacle to society’s ultimate purpose to facilitate that achievement.

    The only equitable solution is for government to declare there is no such thing as G/M, for no State can condone a conspiracy that is destructive to its existence. Namely, the State has an inherent interest in its prodigy and posterity, and has no interest to that which foments against not only the State’s existence, but torments the tranquility of the State’s social order. Gay Marriage is a self-derogatory destruction of all who engaged in its debauchery; permitting G/M is a recognition of immorality that debilitates self-worth, and seriously impacts the spiritually and ph

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    The Vatican did not write the Natural Moral Law (NML) neither did, nor can any man; God wrote it; the Vatican only voices the word of God so you may be apprised of it. God gave the Catholic Church that authority (Acts 15:28 sq; Matthew 16:18 John 14, 15, and 16; I Timothy 3:14-15)

    . Neither God nor the NML discriminate; the NML is universal and applicable to all, including you, irrespective of race, color, culture, age, or gender. Man may sincerely choose what religion he wishes to believe, but he cannot choose what morals he can act on. Thus, Murder, Theft, and Liars are crimes against the NML irrespective of what anyone thinks and regardless of who denies them. However, when they are denied dire consequences inevitably ensue…

    Further, that’s what the Vatican is telling you. They are also telling you that if you allow man to trample on them than you will eventually end up like the governments who give you rights and don’t respect that it is God, not man who gives them to you, whether you believe in God or not. The ACLU is telling you, you have no inviolable rights, that God doesn’t matter, and hence neither do you. If you don’t mind giving up your God given rights the Founding Fathers recognized that’s your prerogative, but I do mind and irrespective of your proclivities, I prefer to keep mind.

    If you don’t like it, than you might like the alternative that China, Russia, and N. Korea have chosen. I would think you might think it over before you agree with the ACLU who is systematically depleting your inalienable rights.

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    The Vatican did not write the Natural Moral Law (NML) neither did, nor can any man; God wrote it; the Vatican only voices the word of God so you may be apprised of it. God gave the Catholic Church that authority (Acts 15:28 sq; Matthew 16:18 John 14, 15, and 16; I Timothy 3:14-15)

    . Neither God nor the NML discriminate; the NML is universal and applicable to all, including you, irrespective of race, color, culture, age, or gender. Man may sincerely choose what religion he wishes to believe, but he cannot choose what morals he can act on. Thus, Murder, Theft, and Liars are crimes against the NML irrespective of what anyone thinks and regardless of who denies them. However, when they are denied dire consequences inevitably ensue…

    Further, that’s what the Vatican is telling you. They are also telling you that if you allow man to trample on them than you will eventually end up like the governments who give you rights and don’t respect that it is God, not man who gives them to you, whether you believe in God or not. The ACLU is telling you, you have no inviolable rights, that God doesn’t matter, and hence neither do you. If you don’t mind giving up your God given rights the Founding Fathers recognized that’s your prerogative, but I do mind and irrespective of your proclivities, I prefer to keep mind.

    If you don’t like it, than you might like the alternative that China, Russia, and N. Korea have chosen. I would think you might think it over before you agree with the ACLU who is systematically depleting your inalienable rights, not the Vatican; they are defending your rights even if you don’t think so..

  • XVIIHailSkins

    As a part of your wonderfully formal heading, might I suggest that you add the following; ‘Assuming the Christian God exists precisely as described in the scrapbook that has evolved into the Christian Bible and that God has chosen the unintelligent, credulous, and overweight 80% majority of the United States as the harbingers of his opinion on the proper role of government in officiating marriage:”

    This would add a lot of weight to your opinions, and would indicate to the readers of this blog that you still have some grip on reality before they embark on reading one of your delirious manifestos.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    The Vatican was founded in order to mark the holy alliance between Pius XI and Benito Mussolini in the years preceding WWII. Something tells me that gentle Jesus had very little to do with the matter. It requires millions of diminutive intellects such as your own to propagate the idea that this crime syndicate is even vaguely concerned with human rights.

  • Bios

    It seems that catholics & evangelicals are starting to sound like the same fanatical horde. But why are there so many in America while there’s less & less in the rest of the developed world?

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    XVIIHailSkins
    CHECK YOUR FACT AGAIN
    4:44 PM EDT
    IRT: “The Vatican was founded in order to mark the holy alliance between Pius XI and Benito Mussolini in the years preceding WWII. Something tells me that gentle Jesus had very little to do with the matter. It requires millions of diminutive intellects such as your own to propagate the idea that this crime syndicate is even vaguely concerned with human rights.”

    ANS: I am sure the Pontiff is pleased for knowing that you speak for all diminutive intellects but you and the diminutive who agree with you don’t have your facts straignt. Before Mussolini existed, Rome existed. The territory on the right bank of the Tiber between Monte Mario and Gianicolo (Janiculum) was known to antiquity as the Ager Vaticanus, and, owing to its marshy character, the low-lying portion of this district enjoyed an ill repute. The origin of the name Vaticanus is uncertain; some claim that the name comes from a vanished Etruscan town called Vaticum.

    This district did not belong to ancient Rome, nor was it included within the city walls built by Emperor Aurelian. In the imperial gardens situated in this section was the Circus of Nero.

    At the foot of the Vatican Hill lay the ancient Basilica of St. Peter. By extensive purchases of land the MEDIEVAL popes acquired possession of the whole hill, thus preparing the way for building activity.

    Communication with the city was established by the Pons Ælius, which led directly to the mausoleum of Hadrian. Between 848 and 852 Leo IV surrounded the whole settlement with a wall, which included it within the city boundaries.

    Until the pontificate of Sixtus V this section of Rome remained a private papal possession and was entrusted to a special administration. Sixtus, however, placed it under the jurisdiction of the urban authorities as the fourteenth region

    In the Law of Guarantees of the Italian State, which came into force ON 13 MAY 1871, it was explicitly declared that all residences of the po

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    The truth hurts doesn’t it?

  • Bios

    Natural & moral law assumes we live in a world designed by a creator and suggests we live life according to this assumption, among a few others. But for the rest of us who understand evolution and have other assumptions, the fact of having gay couples adopting children is just not an issue.
    Natural & moral law also states that women are less capable than men. Maybe this seemed true when religious society ruled, because they used to restrict & condemn women’s actions that were not considered “appropriate”. The same is applicable to homosexuality today, were religious America still restricts & condemns homosexuality. It becomes obvious that religion is now way behind the times. Particularly catholicism.
    Bottom line, Laura Murphy is right on the money, “Fortnight for Freedom” distorts true religious liberty. Or should we say “destroys” true religious liberty.

  • Kristin Shea

    how about the homosexual couples not go to a Catholic run agency to adopt their children?

  • Kristin Shea

    No…the Vatican doesn’t think that. Maybe 500 – 600 years ago they did. How about the same sex couples that wish to adopt go to a Non Catholic Adoption organization? Also…our Muslim president shouldn’t be allowed to tell the Catholic organizations what they are to allow for their health plans to their employees. If someone works in a Catholic organization and doesn’t agree with their doctrine, then maybe they shouldn’t work there.

  • MatthewML

    This entire article, while articulate, is completely misleading and lacking in intellectual merit. In no way has the Catholic Church proposed the banning of contraception in our country – the Church simply (and rightly) has refused to PARTICIPATE in such activities. There is a clear and obvious liberty / freedom issue at hand when the government dictates what sorts of healthcare coverage benefits employers must provide. This is of particular importance when such coverage includes morally questionable / hotly debated treatments. Conscientious objection is a right in our nation that we ought to cherish and protect. At the end of the day you are free to do as you wish as long as it does not harm a third party and does not require me to pay for / support your choices.

  • Carstonio

    The idea that the sexes should “occupy different spheres of action” is as morally repulsive as the idea that the races should be separate. In both cases, even if a god created such rules, it would still be wrong. Human equality regardless of race or gender is a moral imperative.

  • narodnik1

    “TT…:The 1929 concordat between the PAPACY and the Italian state was made becauuse after the foundation of the Italian state the Pope’s jurisdiction stopped at the steps of ST PETER’s basilica.ST PETER’S SQUARE part of the ITALIAN STATE and religious demonstrations there were forbidden.Also,PIUS IX had forbidden Catholics to remain in politics in the Italian republic or risk excommunication.

  • narodnik1

    TT:GOD did NOT write NATURAL LAW .THAT was an invention of the pre-CHRISTIAN (i.e. pagan) STOIC philosophers founded by ZENO.

  • VisionFromAfar

    Kristin Shea:

    When the state-sponsored (underwritten with public funds for providing a public service) Catholic adoption agency is the only agency in a 100-mi radius…it’s not necessarily possible for the homosexual couple to go to another agency. Also, there’s the whole idea of government-sponsored discrimination, too. If the Catholic agency took no government money, they’d be free to do as they pleased. The problem is they want their cake and to eat it too…

    By the way, Obama’s Christian. It’s probably Christian-lite (TM), where he doesn’t take the Bible literally and doesn’t consult Chrisitan God (TM)(C) for every decision, but maybe some big ones. Sorry if that’s not good enough for you.

  • VisionFromAfar

    The problem is, you want your cake and to eat it, too. You can’t operate in the public square as a public entity (i.e. – hospital, adoption agency, etc.), providing services to any member of the public, using public money (government subsidies, etc.), and then say, “Well, no, we’re a Church!”
    No, you’re a hospital. Your nurses’ primary function is healing the sick and wounded, not spreading the word. Your doctors are there to diagnose and operate, not pass out Bibles or give sermons. It’s a clear and distinct difference, and Obama threw the Church a huge bone by telling them they wouldn’t have to pay for it.
    Not paying for it means every single company who works with that insurance agency will underwrite it, kind of like the Catholic agency is doing now with all those other companies that do offer it. So it’s okay to underwrite someone else’s , but not your own, at no extra cost out of your pocket?

    Give unto me a break.

  • Richie A. Poole

    I BELIEVE IN FREEDOM OF RELIGION-NOT FORCING MY RELIGION ON SOMEONE ELSE–OR YOU FORCING YOUR RELIGION ON ME. ALSO MY HEALTH CARE IS BETWEEN MY DOCTOR AND I—NO CHURCH SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO GET BETWEEN ME AND MY DOCTOR.

  • Catken1

    “At the end of the day you are free to do as you wish as long as it does not harm a third party and does not require me to pay for / support your choices.”

    Then I don’t want to have to pay the additional insurance/societal costs for the extra unplanned pregnancies that the Catholic church’s policy will cause. Nor do I want to be harmed, or see my mother or sister or female friend harmed, by being denied a medically-necessary abortion, or emergency contraception after a rape. I don’t want to have to pay extra for the societal costs caused by the Catholic Church’s anti-marriage policy, which makes gay and lesbian folks more likely to depend on welfare and less likely to be able to support each other and their kids as married couples ought, and makes their kids’ lives, and therefore our future, less healthy and stable. Nor do I wish to sanction the harm done to gay and lesbian people and their kids thereby. I also do not want to pay taxpayer dollars to support a tax-exempt church that teaches doctrine I consider harmful, false, and dangerous in places.

    So when are you going to defend my religious liberty?

    But of course, as a non-Catholic, I have no religious liberty, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, other than to sit down, shut up, and do their bidding.

  • Catken1

    “Homosexuals can be homosexuals without forcing religions to accept the practice. ”

    And bigots can be bigots without forcing the rest of us to accept their practice.

    The fact is, though, that neither your church’s disapproval of homosexuality or my church’s disapproval of anti-gay bigots is allowed, in our country, to interfere with the rights of people to live their lives as they see fit, and not be punished by the civil law with unequal treatment for so doing.

    Therefore, by civil law, you ought to be forced to acknowledge gay people’s right to live their lives as they see fit, and their right to choose their own marriage partners on the same terms as everyone else, and I ought to be forced to acknowledge Catholics’ right to do the same.

    But neither the anti-Catholic nor the anti-gay person may form a public business or a nonprofit that receives taxpayer money and then proceed to use that money to discriminate against groups of which they disapprove without any justification other than religious.

  • nkri401

    MatthewML,

    “…and does not require me to pay for / support your choices.”

    Well, you don’t need to support my choices but regardless of my choice, if I work you, you better pay me, don’t you think?

    BTW – This begs the question of if LDS ran health insurance, can they refuse to pay for blood transfusion?

  • lynnman1

    Catken1 – I am sure your heart is in the right place but I think you are making a major leap in judgement and assumption to asser that the only reason someone could possibly believe that homosexual sex is not part of God’s design for an act that is both unitive and part of creating life (think honestly about the biological design that creates the miracle of life.) Just becase society has decided to separate and artificially block one of these two purposes does not make it right. If you honestly believe this was the special intent of sex and marriage – then you are not trying to be bigoted or anti-homosexual. There is a lot of psychological evidence that there are a lot of factors influencing (at a very early age) intimacy and attachment, sexual identity and confusion, sexual attraction – but any open discussion of these factors is being suppressed and described as hate speach. I think to label anyone that is acting out of love and belief in God’s design (whether you agree with them or not) as hateful and bigoted and very much doing the very thing you are passionately fighting against. I hope we can get to a more open and honest place to discuss these topics vs arrogantly judging people as hateful or bigoted and not hearing what they are actually saying.

  • Dianne

    The U.S. first amendment guarentees people of faith the freedom to practice their religion. The Catholic bishops are raising awareness that the HHS mandate is a law that would force Catholic’s to violate their deeply held religious beliefs, or pay steep fines that would likely close many Catholic hospitals, universities, grammer schools, charities, etc. Catholics have the right to practice their faith that holds that abortion, homosexual acts, artificial contraception are sinful acts against God. It is just as immoral to personally commit these acts as to purchase products which provide them. Hence the HHS mandate is government failing to protect religious liberty, by forcing Catholic institutions to provide abortion and birth control to their employees. This is the first time in American history that government past a law which forces people of faith to violate their faith. The Catholic church will take a lot of criticism for standing firm when it’s teachings on faith and morals run contrary to current social or political trends. Also included in current trends is redefinition of marriage, in-vitro fertilization, same sex couple adoption etc. But the truth is the Catholic church has passed on it’s same teachings on faith and morals for 2,000 years. Unfortunatly some people get very angry when they are told that what they are doing is immoral and can not be supported by the church (i.e. adoption into same sex households). In fact some people then cry that the church is discriminatory and denying them their freedom to do whatever they want to. The Catholic church is simply being faithful to it’s deeply held religious beliefs. It would be great to see even more people who live out their faith and values, regardless of what faith they hold.

  • ONE NATION

    Plus the Vatican state can be off limits to all other nations behind their borders. Whould Christ want His church a state behind borders?

  • ONE NATION

    At the end, our supreme law , the Constitution will stand where as no one can take a right from any American where as we all have the right to pratice or not to pratice a religion as we all must comply with civil laws.

  • RedWhiteBlue2012

    This so called “campaign” by the bishops is nothing more than an underhanded campaign for Romney and the GOP. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and attend mass every Sunday. I go for Christ not these elite, dressed to the nines, filthy rich bishops and cardinals who are interested in temporal power more than spirituality. It turns my stomach to see Arch. Lori dressed in his regalia.. (i hear he loves the robes, ring and all.. just loves getting dressed up). Where was Lori when a GOP President sent out boys into two wars that were not needed???? Nowhere. Not a word. He never spoke out. Such hypocrisy.

  • lancer2011

    RedWhiteBlue .. that is why Lori and his crowd are seen by us Catholics as fakes and frauds… Its sad we will never all live long enough to see a progressive pope like John XXIII or Paul VI in our lifetime. For one brief shining moment we had popes and bishops who were appointed who reflected their thinking. What did we get now. ..Corporation Soles.. that are nothing more than businessman in cuff links.

  • hgarner2000

    The forces of modern secularism are unsympathetic to spirituality, do not understand it and at times don’t even believe in its existence. The same forces are slowly eroding the right to religious liberty in America, but it is by the same means that religion itself is fostering the erosion of religious liberty in our country. I am referring to the separation of church and state. This separation is a two-way street. If religion wishes to preserve the right to religious liberty, it must act to strengthen this separation.

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