Bishops Stand for Religious Freedom, Left Howls
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty put out a statement yesterday calling for a “fortnight for freedom” in the two weeks leading up to Independence Day. It is meant to call attention to the threats that the bishops see coming from an increasingly hostile state, one that is animated by rejection of many Christian ethical values, and which has been testing out ways that it can restrict religious liberty (for instance, by using the Soviet tactic of renaming freedom of religion “freedom of worship”).
It’s a lengthy statement that I would urge you to read in its entirety. But a couple of things jumped out at me. One is that it is not just a defense of Catholic freedom, but of the freedom of all Americans to believe and practice their faith as their conscience dictates. For instance, they offer examples of the kind of governmental overreach they are opposing, among which are:
*Christian students on campus: In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
*Discrimination against small church congregations: New York City enacted a rule that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and sixty other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for scores of other uses. While this would not frequently affect Catholic parishes, which generally own their own buildings, it would be devastating to many smaller congregations. It is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers.
They also quote non-Catholics who stand with them:
A recent letter to President Obama from some 60 religious leaders, including Christians of many denominations and Jews, argued that “it is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.” (Letter from Leith Anderson et al. to President Obama, December 21, 2011 (available at www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/To-President-NonCatholics-RelExemptionSigned.pdf).)
More comprehensively, a theologically rich and politically prudent declaration from Evangelicals and Catholics Together made a powerful case for greater vigilance in defense of religious freedom, precisely as a united witness animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (14 Evangelicals and Catholics Together, “In Defense of Religious Freedom,” First Things, March 2012.)
They also make clear that they are not adverse to working with others of good will to preserve religious freedom:
Both our civil year and liturgical year point us on various occasions to our heritage of freedom. This year, we propose a special “fortnight for freedom,” in which bishops in their own dioceses might arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending our first freedom. Our Catholic institutions also could be encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths, and indeed, all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
In response, the Interfaith Alliance decided that it was the nineteenth century, and that playing the anti-Catholicism card was appropriate:
It is with great disappointment that I read the proclamation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on religious freedom. While I believe there are real threats to religious freedom in our nation today, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Catholic Church’s definition of religious freedom is one that is only concerned with its own beliefs and practices and makes no room for those whose views differ. In the democratic society in which we live, we are fortunate our government makes accommodations when necessary to protect our beliefs and practices, but the Constitution still trumps scripture in every case. In fact, it is because of this understanding that religion – all religion – has been able to flourish in the United States.
The doctrine of the Catholic Church should be given no more weight in the creation of public policy than should the views of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or any of the many other religions that can be found in this country. This includes the many Christian denominations that hold a different interpretation of the teachings of Jesus than the Catholic Church. [Emphasis added.]
What the author of this screed, the Rev. Welton Gaddy, means when he says “the Constitution” is the interpretation of the First Amendment that he and his buddies at the ACLU and Americans United put on it, one that neither requires nor even allows for any accommodation of religious faith or practice by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing state.
Speaking of Americans United, the Rev. Barry Lynn banged his spoon on his high chair in response as well to the bishops as well:
The Catholic bishops’ new “religious liberty” campaign jeopardizes the rights of all Americans, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Well, it jeopardizes the right of the state to tell believers what they must do that violates their conscience.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said, “The bishops’ campaign is thoroughly misguided. What they want is massive taxpayer funding of their ministries without complying with the fairness rules that everybody else observes. Maybe their two-week venture should be called a ‘Fortnight for Taxpayer Funding.’
“The bishops want to maintain their privileged status,” Lynn continued, “even if it means that other Americans’ freedoms are infringed. It is imperative that President Obama and Congress refuse to cave in to this outrageous assault on church-state separation.”
“When taxpayers are forced to support sectarian agencies that refuse to meet the needs of women, gay people and other communities,” concluded Lynn, “that’s a real violation of religious liberty. Public funds should go only to agencies that serve the public interest. If the bishops want to run sectarian social services, they ought to collect the money from their parishioners, not the taxpayers.”
So, what this amounts to is this: no organization that refuses to bow at the altar of Moloch and provide abortion on demand, or that refuses to bow at the altar of gay rights and put its stamp of approval on homosexual behavior, should be allowed to participate in any form of public service that involves tax money. In other words, no private organization that does not operate within the bounds of strict orthodoxy as defined by Barry Lynn and Welton Gaddy (not to mention NOW, NARAL, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, and the United Church of Christ) should be allowed to offer its services to a needy public. What Lynn and his friends want is not church-state separation, but creation of a de facto establishment between the state and the Church of Ethical Liberalism.
Three cheers for the bishops. Please be praying for their message to get out, and for Americans of good will from across the religious and non-religious spectrum to join them in their fight to keep the First Amendment from being adulterated with liberal cultural orthodoxy.
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