USCCB on Obama Administration’s attack on Catholic religious freedom

Check out a blog entry from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB’s media office.

Here is the first part.

Health and Human Services’ recent attacks on freedom of religion show it is deaf to religious sensibilities. Even the Administration’s resounding defeat on January 11—when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Administration’s reading of the First Amendment as “extreme,” “untenable,” and having “no merit”—couldn’t unplug its ears.

The Court held in Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC that the government could not meddle in the internal affairs of religious organizations, in this case, a Lutheran church and school. Yet nine days later, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it would force all but a few religious organizations to violate their own teachings in providing health care benefits to their own people. Specifically, the government has ordered virtually all employers—nationwide— to sponsor and subsidize health care coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, for their employees. And it gave church employers a year to get in line.

The First Amendment unambiguously says that government “shall make no law” prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It doesn’t say that some laws trampling free exercise are fine. It says no law.

Yet, nine days after the Hosanna-Tabor decision, on January 20, HHS announced its decision to keep in place the frightening mandate in the health care law, with barely the slightest nod to religious concerns. HHS holds to the absurd rule it announced last August, that church ministries get a religious exemption only if they employ and serve primarily co-religionists.

Must Catholic hospitals, to be true to their identity, now turn away people of other faiths from their emergency rooms and fire non-Catholic employees? Currently, Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care in our country. Must Catholic Charities hire and serve only Catholics in its food pantries and other social service agencies? Until today, you didn’t need a baptismal certificate for soup.

This egregious violation of religious freedom marks the first time in our history that the federal government is forcing religious people and groups to ante up for services that violate their consciences. Some claim this is all about access to contraceptives—but everyone knows how and where to get them, and get them cheaply. And the mandate also forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-causing drugs. This is about forcing the church to pay for all these things through insurance coverage, to sponsor these “benefits” that it considers immoral. This is, in other words, about freedom of religion, which is a foundation stone of U.S. democracy.


Read the rest there, where you can also comment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Legisperitus says:

    Laus Deo. The Bishops get it.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Finally, the bishops have awakened from their slumber.
    I hope it is not too late.
    “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. ”
    – Churchill

  3. irishgirl says:

    Amen to what AnAmericanMother (AND Sir Winston Churchill) said!
    Let’s hope that the Bishops are in one accord on this!
    They need to be like St. John the Baptist confronting Herod Antipas!
    And no ‘pussyfooting around’, Your Excellencies!
    You are our shepherds! Act like one!
    Lead us!

  4. Tradster says:

    I hate to be a cynic about this but I do not believe this will be a wake-up call for the bishops. It appears they and their even more liberal staff are growling not for religious reasons but rather because this action threatens their revenue. Once that threat disappears it will be back to business as usual. I fervently pray to be wrong.

  5. EXCHIEF says:

    If necessary the Bps should file (and fund) a lawsuit against HHS forcing the matter to the SCOTUS. There it will certainly be ruled unconstitutional. BO has to know he will not win this but is doing it to placate his base and show his arrogant disregard for the U S Constitution. There are several other matters scheduled before the SCOTUS which will have a profound impact on the future of this country. If we get the right ruling on the eligibility to hold office case(s) all of the others become moot.

  6. Wake up call? I’m not so sure.

    Where is the bishops’ outrage that the Administration is requiring contraceptive / abortifacient coverage of ANY insurance carrier? Isn’t the act itself immoral for everyone?

    Conscience clauses are a cop out. This isn’t just an offense against “religious liberty” (as in vogue as that phrase may be), nor is it so much a matter of forcing Catholics to violate their teachings, it’s first and foremost an offense against God and a violation of His law no matter who does it.

    When the bishops are willing to stand up and defend God’s law and not just Catholic sensibilities (as though they are not one and the same) only then will it appear to me that they are truly waking up.

  7. sisu says:

    The issue at hand needs to be communicated to the voting public in a way that is relevant to them. Mentions of this ruling to co-workers brought reactions from them focusing on “why Catholics are hung up on contraception etc” – a common reaction which I’m certain this Administration is counting on. The heart of the matter needs framing for those who don’t hold our beliefs.
    This ruling is like – requiring that all employers must purchase lunch plans for their employees, something never required by law before, and it must include pork and liquor, regardless if you’re a Jewish or Muslim organization. Except in this case, they’re requiring religious people to buy into what they believe is a murder. Never before have people been required by law to purchase commercial product that violates their freedom of religion, and their conscientious objection to being forced to kill another person.
    If big tobacco joined up with a president and got it into law that every employer must purchase cigarettes for their employees, it would be clearly outrageous and evidence of the “corporate evil” that is popular talk in some groups. Reproductive services ARE big corporate, and this is big money for them. And they’re FORCING it on us. Do you want big corporate making it a law for you to buy their products?
    If you worked for animal rescue and advocacy groups, and the government passed a law requiring those groups turn over all puppies for use in drug testing labs, with an opt-out if you stop rescuing animals, might you think your group was being targeted? Especially if the Administration was heavily supported by big Pharmaceuticals?

    There are better comparisons I’m sure, but we need to put where people can understand the threat to themselves, their life and liberty.

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