We have discussed on this blog before the slow but steady erosion of religious liberty here in America (HERE, HERE, & HERE). We are experiencing a time wherein it is increasingly asserted that the only place for religious expression in our culture is inside church buildings. Religious involvement of any sort in the public forum is often intentionally forbidden. Interpretations of the “separation of Church and State” (a phrase not found in the Constitution) are becoming more extreme in the secular sense. In addition, another threat to religious liberty is that common Catholic teachings are increasingly be labeled as “hate-speech.”
All this has meant that the Church is beginning to face legislation that, if enacted, will limit our practice of the faith or seek to compel us to act against our faith. A lawsuit was recently initiated against the Catholic University of America indicating that it’s policy of single sex dorms violates the human rights law of the District of Columbia. Catholic Charities recently had to give up its adoption agency (one of the largest in the City) because it could not accept being required to give no favor to heterosexual couples over homosexual ones. Many Church agencies have also face various suits and actions by State and local governments requiring our medical plans to provide contraceptives and/or pay for abortions.
Even where there are “religious exemptions” written into laws (so they can pass legislatures), State and Federal agencies are increasingly interpreting these in a very strict sense. Hence, a Catholic agency or university can only be considered Catholic (and therefore exempt) if it serves only Catholics and employs only Catholics. This standard can obviously not be met in 99% of the cases, since Catholic institutions, agencies and parishes serve everyone and usually employ non-Catholics in many positions.
So here we are, in an increasingly hostile and secular atmosphere wherein our religious liberty is being threatened. As would be expected from the currently hyper-sexualized culture, most of the threats center around our teaching on human sexuality. And this is seen from the examples above.
A recent and national threat comes from the Obama Administration and it centers on requiring ALL insurers to provide contraceptives for their clients. Here in the Archdiocese our Archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl, was informed us of what he calls an unprecedented attack on religious liberty:
In implementing the new health care reform law, HHS recently issued a rule that requires private health care plans nationwide to cover contraception and sterilization as “preventative services” for women. The new rule would force all insurance plans to cover “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” The mandate includes drugs that may cause an abortion both before and after implantation of a newly conceived human being. Never before has the federal government required private health plans to include such coverage.
The narrow religious exemption in HHS’s new rule protects almost no one. It covers only a “religious employer” that has the “inculcation of religious values” as its purpose and primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets. Most Catholic charitable organizations that serve the public, including hospitals, health care clinics, social service programs, and schools, colleges and universities, will be ineligible. Individuals and religiously affiliated health insurers will not qualify for the exemption.
The public comment period on this rule ends September 30. The USCCB is encouraging Catholics to send an e-mail message to HHS urging our government leaders to ensure that such federal regulations do not violate Americans’ moral and religious convictions. This can be easily done simply by visiting The USCCB Website on Conscience and Religious Liberty
Please share the attached information with your parishioners and encourage them to send their comments to HHS by the September 30th deadline.
Well, you know I would like you, who read this to do the same. Please send your comments before September 30 to HHS.The Fundamental message to HHS is this:
“Pregnancy is not a disease, and drugs and surgeries to prevent it are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans to purchase. Please remove sterilization and prescription contraceptives from the list of ‘preventive services’ the federal government is mandating in private health plans. It is especially important to exclude any drug that may cause an early abortion, and to fully respect religious freedom as other federal laws do. The narrow religious exemption in HHS’s new rule protects almost no one. I urge you to allow all organizations and individuals to offer, sponsor and obtain health coverage that does not violate their moral and religious convictions.”
Please note, as we have been saying, as our world gets more secular, threats to religious liberty and efforts to compel the religiously observant to comply with secular norms is going to increase. We have to fight this at every stage and insist on our rights or they will be taken from us. Sadly, since the attacks are occurring on many fronts, we have to remain very vigilant and at times will sound like a broken record as we bring these threats before the people of God. But bring them we must.
Further, do not allow the militant secularists to attempt to shame you into silence or submission. They will inevitably raise charges (probably right in this combox) that we hate homosexuals, or women, or “sexual freedom” and want to impose our values etc. Do not give way to the notion that anyone should be able to compel us by Law to act against what our faith teaches, or pay for things we consider immoral and in some cases murderous (i.e. abortion). Others will try and say “You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill…no one is taking away your liberty.” But asking us to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients is no mole hill and any attack against our liberty that is ceded is sure to bring more.
If you find a good fight – get in it. And this is a good and necessary fight, not only for Catholics but for people of all faiths, for militant secularism threatens us all. Write to HHS today by going here: The USCCB Website on Conscience and Religious Liberty
Photo credit: Department of HHS, thanks to Flickr user liangjinjian, available under by-nc-nd v2.0