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November 16, 2011

Colum #1,577

Fighting For Religious Liberty

By Mike McManus

            “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.”  Ezekiel 33:7

            Pope Gregory preached a sermon on Ezekiel 1,500 years ago which was quoted to Catholic bishops in Baltimore this week: “Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height, for all his life, to help them by his foresight.”

            Accordingly, Baltimore Bishop William Lori announced “with growing alarm the ongoing erosion of religious liberty in our country.”  As Chairman of a new Committee on Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he reminded them the Declaration of Independence announced that Life and Liberty are not granted by government, but were “endowed by their Creator.”

            The Founding Fathers gave religious liberty the “pride of place” as the First Amendment that government is to make “no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

            This is exactly what the Obama Administration and gay rights activists have been doing. The churches and religious institutions were created to enable religious freedom to flourish. Indeed, Lori noted that the Catholic Church “is the largest non-governmental source of educational, social, charitable and health care services, offered as an expression of our faith in the God who is love.”

            New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of USCCB, recently wrote, “Never before have we faced this kind of challenge in our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith and as a service provider.”

            What are examples of these threats?

1.      “The imposition of court-mandated `rights’ which have no textual basis in the Constitution such as those that pertain to abortion and same-sex marriage.  Refusal to endorse the taking of human life or to redefine marriage is now portrayed as discriminatory,” Lori asserted. 

2.      HHS is now requiring Catholic assistance to sex-trafficking victims to include “the full range of reproductive services” such as abortion and contraception, even though other agencies offer such services, if desired by victims.

3.      The Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as the “union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” was passed by Congress by a vote of 342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate and was signed by Bill Clinton, a Democrat.  The Justice Department, which should be defending the law, filed briefs attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, its “bias and prejudice.” 

4.      Many Catholic Charities have withdrawn from adoption and foster care services because they refuse to place foster children with cohabiting or same-sex couples. 

5.       U.S. Health and Human Services Department issued regulations “that would mandate coverage of sterilization and contraception including abortifacients in private health care plans.”  That would take all Catholic hospitals, universities and health insurance plans out of federally subsidized health care coverage.

6.      The Department of Justice has even argued before the U.S. Supreme Court for the virtual elimination of the “ministerial exception” which allows religious denominations to “choose their own ministers without state interference.”

America’s anti-religious bias is not just targeted at Catholics. When Victoria Childress,

who runs Iowa Cake Cottage, was asked to bake a “wedding” cake for two lesbians this fall. She politely refused, explaining, “I am a Christian and I have strong beliefs.”  The women could have gone to another baker, but instead they organized a boycott against Iowa Cake Cottage.

            “It’s not so much to do with them as it’s to do with me and my walk with God,” Childress declared. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, charged:  “The only form of discrimination that’s acceptable in this country is directed at men and women of faith.”

            Illinois passed a Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Law. Big Brother bureaucrats ignored the “Religious Freedom Protection” part of the law, interpreting it to mean that Catholics must offer foster children to cohabiting and gay couples. Six Illinois Catholic Dioceses had administered a $30 million program placing 3,000 foster children with relatives, married couples or singles, giving them $275 to $425 per child.  Catholics sued and lost at county level, and were preparing to appeal, but found the state stopped assigning foster children to them.

            The Belleville Diocese quit after 64 years.  It will remove its $9 million program from the Diocese to establish “Christian Social Services” to continue foster care and related services of private adoptions, assisted living, and day care centers.

            Belleville abandoned its faith to continue to serve.

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