While its depressing that not being forced to violate one’s conscience is considered a victory, you take what you can get in the age of ObamaCare. So I’m thankful for the news that an appeals court imposed a temporary injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing its contraception mandate on a privately owned business:
Missouri business owner Frank O’Brien, who employs 87 people at O’Brien Industrial Holdings, alleged in the lawsuit that led to the injunction that the mandate unconstitutionally infringes on his religious beliefs.
On its website, the company says its mission is “to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” O’Brien is a Catholic.
The order by the three-judge panel on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prohibits HHS from forcing O’Brien to comply with the mandate, until the court issues a substantive ruling on the matter. The injunction order is not a final determination on the merits of O’Brien’s case or the constitutionality of the mandate.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have launched a new website, First American Freedom. The website aims to inform readers on issues surrounding religious liberty, current threats to religious liberty, and actions one may take to uphold this liberty.
Religious freedom is our first American freedom. It is a founding principle of our country, protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It’s a fundamental human right, rooted in the dignity of every human person—people of any faith or no faith at all. It’s not a Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, Mormon or Muslim issue—it’s an American issue, a civil rights issue.
Religious liberty includes your freedom of belief, speech, and worship. But it also protects action—the freedom to serve the common good in accordance with your faith. It means that you and your community—not the government—define your faith. It means the freedom to help the needy in accordance with the principles of your faith. It means the freedom to participate fully and equally in public life, regardless of your faith. It means the freedom to work in business without checking your faith at the door.
In short, it means that nobody should be forced to act in a manner contrary to their own religious beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, unless it is necessary to keep public order.
The website also features media and print resources that can be shared.
West Michigan businessman, John Kennedy, has joined over 90 plaintiffs in filing suit against the federal government in its attempts to force business owners and employers to pay for procedures and medications that violate religious beliefs. Kennedy joins other business owners, such as Hobby Lobby CEO David Green who says “God owns” his business.
Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam and Autocam Medical, says the law clearly violates his religious beliefs.
“This law requires me to violate my beliefs by paying for controversial products that cause abortions, and it does nothing to improve access or eliminate cost for essential medications like insulin and heart medication,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said he hopes the lawsuit will buy opponents of the law like himself enough time to repeal the mandates in Congress. The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to stop the mandates when they become effective on Jan. 1, 2013
“Why is the Obama administration prioritizing life- ending drugs over lifesaving drugs?” said Kennedy, who filed the lawsuit with the support of the CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund and the Thomas More Society of Chicago.
Kennedy added that the government is forcing employers such as himself to choose between violating religious beliefs, taking away all employee insurance programs, or closing down. Kennedy currently employees 680 people in the U.S.
Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, has authored a review of the book, “Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel” by John Guy. In it, Gregg notes the continuing need for vigilance regarding religious liberty:
And yet as Islam’s present traumas should remind us, a religion’s capacity to make distinctions between the spiritual and temporal realms makes a difference to the more general growth of freedom. As Guy points out, Henry VIII’s looting and destruction of the sanctuary of St Thomas Becket in September 1538, his burning of Becket’s remains, and the king’s posthumous designation of Becket as a “rebel and traitor to his prince” had a clear political purpose. “Only a monarch not unlike the earlier Henry,” Guy writes, “set on building a regional church under tight royal control, ring-fenced by the coast, as an integral part of a centralized state controlled by himself, could have spoken that way” (348).
It was of course the voice of tyranny, for which libertas ecclesiae and the life of Thomas Becket never cease to serve as constant reproaches.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tackles the topic of religious liberty with his most recent column, “Defining Religious Liberty Down.” In it, Douthat highlights the public nature of the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the “free exercise of religion”:
It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair. Most religious communities conceive of themselves as peoples or families, and the requirements of most faiths extend well beyond attendance at a sabbath service — encompassing charity and activism, education and missionary efforts, and other “exercises” that any guarantee of religious freedom must protect.
Many would say that the religious liberty squabbles of today–the HHS mandate debate and last week’s Chick-fil-A fracas, for example–reflect a contemporary confusion about what is actually protected by the Bill of Rights’ “free exercise of religion.” Instead, Douthat posits that the conflict is a result of a present tension between religious values and the modern idea of freedom. This, Douthat argues, is really at the heart of the religious liberty debate.
The question is not whether “the free exercise of religion” allows the government to mandate contraception purchase or regulate businesses according to their values. The question is whether certain religious beliefs of today run so contradictory to the public zeitgeist that, like 15th century Aztec sacrifice rituals, they violate the common good and cannot merit public protection. Those who answer the latter question with a “yes” should quit the emaciated definitions of religious liberty and move on with the debate:
It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.
It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
There, didn’t that feel better? Now we can get on with the fight.
Most church-goers are used to announcements asking them to silence their cell phones before services begin. In a twist, Archbishop Lori of Baltimore did just the opposite, urging a congregation to pull out their cell phones and use them during Mass.
…Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore…called on the congregation to open their cellphones and text the word “freedom” or “libertad” to 377377. It was part of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty text campaign, and in two minutes about 2,500 people suddenly joined the effort. Those who texted signed up to receive text messages about the campaign, which still continues. Archbishop Lori admitted that asking people to turn on their phones at Mass was a first for him – and likely a first for everyone in the congregation.
An overflow crowd of 5,000+ people attended the July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, to close the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ campaign.
He’s joined by economist Jennifer Roback Morse, a Catholic economist and founder and president of the Ruth Institute. The short video distills the fact that opposition to HHS Mandate is not about the morality of contraception or even abortion. It is about religious liberty and maintaing the freedom of religion that our Founders realized was so important to a free society. The mandate is uniting Catholics, evangelicals and people from all beliefs to stand for religious freedom.
Citizens of North Dakota will be voting today on an amendment to the state’s constitution that supporters say will guarantee religious freedom:
Measure 3 is worded this way: “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.” Its supporters call it the Religious Liberty Restoration amendment; they say it’s needed because of a 22-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision they believe has put limits on religious freedom.
“What this amendment is attempting to do is to restore that level of protection to what it was pre-1990,” says Tom Freier, who heads the North Dakota Family Alliance. The group led the effort to put the measure on the ballot.
Freier says that making Measure 3 part of the constitution would give it permanence and help prevent attacks on religious freedom.
“So, the analogy would be: We live in Fargo, and most recently in Bismarck and in Minot, you’ve had floods. And you want to prepare for that. You don’t know exactly when or how things are going to happen, but you want to make preparation,” he says. “This measure would really put in place the protection for North Dakota that would make sure that people are protected, and religious organizations are protected, when and if they do need that protection.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty released an Easter week statement titled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.” The document outlines recent threats to religious liberty in the States and abroad while endorsing an upcoming “Fortnight for Freedom” to defend what it calls “the most cherished of American freedoms.”
We suggest that the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
This thoughtful and well-reasoned statement is a necessary read not just for Catholics, but for all concerned with religious liberty. To read it in its entirety, click on the link above.
Yesterday in his personal column for the Diocese of Madison’s Catholic Herald, Bishop Robert C. Morlino issued a call to arms to Catholics battling for their religious freedom.
But such a battle, he says, is one that should emulate Christ’s loving nature, while being resolutely clear and firm in rejecting the obligation of Catholic institutions to provide healthcare that includes contraceptives and abortifacients under the Obama administration’s controversial HHS mandate (see recent reactions below on EWTN by U.S. bishops and Acton’s President, Rev. Robert Sirico).
While no doubt the Madison bishop is aware of Christianity’s bloody history of self-sacrifice in defense of religious liberty, any fight should not, in his opinion, automatically involve escalations of physical violence and warfare.
This non-violent perception is very unlike that of the Hollywood film of heroic Catholic martyrdom - Cristiada - which I reviewed last week at a Vatican screening. Perhaps many of us might daydream of Bishop Morlino trading in his miter for a sombrero and staff for a rifle to become the invincible Zorro-like Generale Gorostieta of the Cristiada film – gunning down one federale after another all the way to a Catholic coup d’état of ObamaCare. Surely mental fodder for another Hollywood epic drama!
For this Catholic bishop it is the simple power of Christian Truth and Charitable Love that will help Catholics prevail in their frustrating battles with the U.S. government. The laity need to arm themselves with these two great weapons of faith. Bishop Morlino believes in putting up a good fight, especially one that respects the Vatican II’s encouragement of building up an effective, reasoning Catholic culture of “lay mission”.
In witnessing the 500-strong that protested peacefully in front of a Madison federal building, Morlino was proud to see the laity shouldering the burden in defending Catholic religious liberty in a charitable, yet determined fashion:
I was privileged to be a witness to religious freedom and freedom of conscience with nearly 500 faithful people at the Federal building in downtown Madison. Such rallies had been quickly organized around our nation and I know that not all who might have come were able (or even aware of the events).
Those who were able to gather, however, were in large part Catholic (though not all), and in being there, they were really doing what the Second Vatican Council meant by “lay mission,” that is, applying the standards of God’s Kingdom to the real world.
That is the true role that the Church was trying to enliven in the laity through Vatican II — faithful people witnessing actively to today’s world, bringing the Church into the world of today (as opposed to the idea that the main way one can be an “active” Catholic is by performing different liturgical roles)…
Let’s make sure we are charitable, but let’s make sure we are clear and we are heard. Sometimes we can be tempted wrongly to think that charity and reasonableness are excuses for acting like wimps.
To read the rest of Bishop Morlino’s column and his pastoral advice to Catholics go here.