A Disturbing New Day for American Religious Liberty

As I’ve mentioned previously, the federal government (specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services) is trying to force Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools to pay for abortion-causing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception — all of which directly violate our right to conscience.

In my previous post, I compared it to a law attempting to force Jewish food kitchens to carry bacon.  But there’s another analogy that I can’t shake: after the totalitarian Chinese government executes political prisoners, they are alleged to send a bill for the bullet to the victim’s family.  It’s awful enough to have a loved one killed, but to be forced to pay for the indignity is an extra slap in the face.  The United States government is now demanding that we “pay for the bullet,” essentially, to assist employees at Catholic institutions to kill their children.

I also mentioned that the U.S. bishops are fighting back. In the past two Sundays, in pulpits around the countries, statements from the bishops denouncing the HHS mandate have been read.

Incredibly, the Army prevented Catholic chaplains from reading the unredacted letter from Archbishop Broglio at Mass:

On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution. 
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, the bulletproof (h/t)
The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit. The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel. 
Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter. Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience. 
The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, who drew attention to this, comments on it,

So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in? 

Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?

Indeed.  This is a rather startling development. My hope is that the Army realizes it overreacted, and we can chalk this up to a one-off mistake, rather than setting a precedent that Catholic chaplains can only say what the military permits them to say.

Meanwhile, the New York Times scoffs at Catholics for believing that they’re entitled to “religious liberty”:

Even in his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Romney hinted darkly at the tone of the campaign to come. He accused President Obama of ordering “religious organizations to violate their conscience” and vowed to defend religious liberty. 
It was a reference to the Obama administration’s requirement that large religious institutions, like hospitals and universities, provide insurance coverage for birth control. He was promising to defend the Roman Catholic Church’s “religious liberty” to deprive its tens of thousands of employees and university students of their own liberty.
James Taranto’s reaction (in the Wall Street Journal) is apt:

Those scare quotes around religious liberty constitute the most shocking act of punctuation since the early days of what Reuters deemed “the war on terror.’” The New York Times editorial board–and, to judge by his actions, the current president of the United States–has as little respect for religious liberty as this column has for Keynesian “stimulus.”

The “liberty” that the Times thinks trumps the First Amendment isn’t a right to abortion, although that would be awful enough.  It’s your “liberty” to force your religious employer to purchase abortions or contraception for you. What can be said about this argument, other than it is intellectually vacuous, morally repugnant, and a legal absurdity?

Catholics need to wake up to this reality.  We live in a day and age in which it’s increasingly becoming thinkable to step upon basic freedoms of religion, to force Catholics to pay for the killing of their children, and to control what they can and can’t preach in Mass.  Abortion isn’t just killing millions of children, it’s killing the soul of our nation, destroying the very principles we were founded upon.

What can we do in response to all of this?  The bishops have uniformly encouraged three things:

  1. Pray.
  2. Fast, and do penance for the nation.
  3. Contact Congress.  

You can everything you need to get informed and to write Congress here.

6 Comments

  1. Sprachmeister,

    Non-Americans are most welcome to write. Practically speaking, Congressmen are most concerned about their own district or state, since those are the people they have to appease to win re-election.

    But it can’t hurt for them to know that people around the globe are troubled at the dimming light of religious liberty in this great country.

    I.X.,

    Joe

  2. And yet another reason to contact my congresswoman…

    I’m almost certain the staff in her office know of me by name because of all the emails I’ve written to her.

    They’ve ranged in topics from Vicks Nyquil to the Space Program, to traffic light cameras, to even requesting a letter of marque with the section of the Constitution dealing with that matter and the powers given to the US Congress cited, as well as the case of Confederate State Ship Savannah during the Civil War referenced as well (I never heard back on that one…)

    I’ll be damned if not doing my civic duty by not voting and writing to my representatives (That I voted against by writing in “None of the Above” more often than not…) to express my opinion is one of the sins I’ll have to answer for on Judgement Day.

  3. I have a question.. I’ve been talking to a friend about all of this and her continued argument to me is that “medicaid (which is govt insurance for the low income population) has covered this forever… Money has always been going to this… and if those establishments serve the general population then shouldn’t that be accessible? HMM..”

    What would you say to that? I don’t know much about what percentage of our taxes go to what, but I don’t think that this mandate is basically the same as paying taxes that go to abortion/sterilization/birth control.

    1. Yeah, there’s a world of difference between the government doing something immoral (like purchasing contraception), and the government forcing citizens and religious institutions to do something immoral.

      To be clear, I don’t think that the government should be involved in this business, either. But it’s still worse.

      Perhaps it’s worth pointing this out to your friend: the US government has paid for abortions in the past. Does that mean that the US government should be forced to make churches pay for abortion?

      I.X.,

      Joe

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