Obama’s war on religion

It is not hyperbole. I wish it was.

We Catholics are not generally confrontational. We prefer working with people to working against them. We know God is in each of us. Despite the efforts of some to rewrite history, we know our country was founded on religious freedom and cherish that. As Catholics, we are proud of our contributions to building this nation – the universities, hospitals, adoption services, services to the poor, advancement of science and so much more.

What would it take to make our most liberal bishops and the USCCB, to publicly and loudly protest against a president they want to support? Why did so many bishops write letters to their flocks, often directed to be read aloud (an extraordinary act), at Mass last weekend? Effectively an open declaration of war against us.

This has been building for some time. We saw in administration speeches the redefinition of “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship” – you can believe what you want, but not live it if it conflicts with their godless secular “values.” We have seen the administration withhold funds as a club against our own states and sovereign nations who do not accept abortion or unnatural unions. We have seen funding removed from critically needed, immensely effective Catholic social services, in favor of acknowledged inferior providers.

Notable skirmishes have been the lack of legally binding conscience provisions in Obamacare. We lost that. More recently the administration turned their heavy artillery against our “personnel.” The Obama administration’s position was that we can not “discriminate” in our hiring and firing of ministers based on all the leading-edge secular criteria. If you are not following, that means women priests, homosexual priests, etc. Incredibly (I was shocked), the Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY REJECTED that.

So what is the fuss all about now? Obamacare has come home to roost. Those promises and conscience protections guaranteed by his executive order and in numerous speeches – non-existent. In fact, quite the opposite. By the administration’s decree – health plans must include (1) contraceptives, (2) abortifacients, (3) sterilization. A view that pregnancy is a disease that must be treated. An anti-life position we find repugnant. No plan without such immoral coverage shall be legally available whether you like it or not. MOREOVER, the Church itself must offer such abhorrent plans to her employees. Of course, that is impossible for us so this would force us to drop healthcare coverage and pay huge fines for doing so.

The message Mr. Obama is sending, says Mr. Winters, is “that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us.”

Mr. Winters is not alone. The liberal Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, blogged that he “cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience” – and he urged people to fight it. Another liberal favorite, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., has raised the specter of “civil disobedience” and vowed that he will drop coverage for diocesan workers rather than comply. They are joined in their expressions of discontent by the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, which alone employs 70,000 people.

William McGurn
Wall Street Journal

OK. With all the political noise out there you may not have been following this. Maybe you think that your bishop has over-reacted. Besides your bishop, who does this upset? Our Holy Father. Cardinal-designate and president of the USCCB Timothy Dolan. Our most liberal bishops.


In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Pope Benedict XVI


Scarcely two weeks ago, in its Hosanna-Tabor decision upholding the right of churches to make ministerial hiring decisions, the Supreme Court unanimously and enthusiastically reaffirmed these longstanding and foundational principles of religious freedom. The court made clear that they include the right of religious institutions to control their internal affairs.

Yet the Obama administration has veered in the opposite direction. It has refused to exempt religious institutions that serve the common good – including Catholic schools, charities and hospitals – from its sweeping new health-care mandate that requires employers to purchase contraception, including abortion-producing drugs, and sterilization coverage for their employees.

Last August, when the administration first proposed this nationwide mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage, it also proposed a “religious employer” exemption. But this was so narrow that it would apply only to religious organizations engaged primarily in serving people of the same religion. As Catholic Charities USA’s president, the Rev. Larry Snyder, notes, even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify for the exemption in that case, because they were committed to serve those of other faiths.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President of USCCB


This decision from the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] is from the highest level of Federal government, and I cannot imagine that this decision was released without the explicit knowledge and approval of President Barack Obama.

And I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.

For me there is no other fundamental issue as important as this one as we enter into the Presidential and Congressional campaigns. Every candidate must be pressed to declare his/her position on all of the fundamental life issues, especially the role of government to determine what conscience decision must be followed: either the person’s own moral and conscience decision, or that dictated/enforced by the Federal government. For me the answer is clear: we stand with our moral principles and heritage over the centuries, not what a particular Federal government agency determines.

As Bishops we do not recommend candidates for any elected office. My vote on November 6 will be for the candidate for President of the United States and members of Congress who intend to recognize the full spectrum of rights under the many conscience clauses of morality and public policy. If any candidate refuses to acknowledge and to promote those rights, then that candidate will not receive my vote.

Cardinal Roger Mahony
Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles

In previous generations, Catholics were protected against individual and organized prejudice by an exemplary legal system. In a society that is pluralistic in its moral standards, the law always provided religious exemptions and conscience clauses that protected both individuals and religious institutions. These traditional safeguards of liberty can no longer be taken for granted. Now it is the law itself that has become, in some instances, our adversary. This is a new development for Catholics in America: the legal system is being changed to remove protections for our faith and our religious liberty. Catholics risk being once again excluded from the American consensus. That is my fear.

Francis Cardinal George
Archbishop of Chicago

I am writing to you on a matter of grave moral concern – freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).

Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Atlanta
(my bishop)

It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!? There is no other way to put it.

[...]

Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself. In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.

This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone – not only Catholics; not only people of all religion. At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens. It forces every employer to subsidize an ideology or pay a penalty while searching for alternatives to health care coverage. It undermines the whole concept and hope for health care reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats.

[...]

Kathleen Sebelius and through her, the Obama administration, have said “To Hell with You” to the Catholic faithful of the United States.

  • To Hell with your religious beliefs,
  • To Hell with your religious liberty,
  • To Hell with your freedom of conscience.
Most Reverend David A. Zubik
Bishop of Pittsburgh

The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

[...]

We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati

In every area touching the sanctity of human life and issues of sexual morality, the Obama administration is aggressively prosecuting the agenda its critics predicted and its most ardent left-wing supporters hoped for. Those who are driving the train, including key administration officials who self-identify as members of the Catholic Church, have no regard for the ethical beliefs of Catholics and others when they are in conflict with left-liberal orthodoxy. Their task, as they perceive it, is to fortify and expand the “right to abortion” and “sexual freedom” wherever they can.

[...]

Pro-life citizens, including many Catholics, who in 2008 allowed themselves to be persuaded that Obama wouldn’t, as his critics warned, push abortion hard and run roughshod over the religious liberty and rights of conscience of Catholics and other pro-life citizens and their institutions, have now gotten a rude awakening. His administration revealed its contempt for religious freedom and the rights of people and communities of faith when it embraced an extreme and utterly untenable position on the ministerial exemption in the Hosanna-Tabor case. In case anyone thought that was some sort of isolated mistake, the President’s abortifacient and contraception mandate leaves the matter in no doubt.

Professor Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Director, James Madison Program

The language is Orwellian. With stunning magnanimity, Sebelius tells Catholic non-profits that they can take advantage of their one-year reprieve as long as they seek the blessings of the federal government. If they pass muster with the bureaucrats, then they have time to figure out how they can prostitute their religiously ground convictions, or prepare for bankruptcy. To top things off, after shoving the radical secular agenda down the throat of Catholics – and other people of faith who share their concerns – Sebelius congratulates the Obama administration for striking a “balance” between religious liberty and Obamacare. But, of course, no balance was struck: the edict grants nothing to those who believe in religious liberty, and she knows it.

Bill Donohue
Catholic League President

Some months ago HHS refused to award an anti-trafficking grant to the U.S. Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). It did so despite MRS’s scoring higher on an objective scale (according to the government’s independent advisors evaluating grant applications) than two of the three organizations that were awarded grants. (And two of those scored so low that they were deemed unqualified.) I suggested then that HHS had an ABC rule, “Anybody But Catholics.” Now I wonder if ABC isn’t also the answer to who gets freedom of religion.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh
USCCB Communications

The present secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, a bitter fallen-away Catholic, now requires that all insurance, even when issued privately, must carry coverage for evil and grave sin. Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln

I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance. Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria

A dangerous line has been crossed. Most Reverend Paul Loverde, Bishop of Arlington

The HHS mandate tramples religious freedom. Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, Bishop of Detroit

This is all new, in the sense that never before in our history has any government simply issued a decree emptying the religious convictions and conscience protections of all the institutions that serve the poor. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

…deep disappointment at this unprecedented infringement on religious liberty in our country. Most Reverend Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston

This is the logical result of a seismic change in this administration’s approach to religious groups involved in providing social services to, among others, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the immigrant. Most Reverend John Nienstedt, Archbishop of Minneapolis – St. Paul

First of all, it’s much broader than just contraceptives, the Order also includes pills that can act as abortifacients. So it is a very serious threat to our Catholic moral tradition and belief; and, The Right of Conscience, or Freedom of Conscience, is supreme in our Catholic tradition. Most Reverend Patrick Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo


When you attack the Church, you attack Christ. Christ and His Church are inseparable. Saul of Taurus learned this the hard way.

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? He said, “Who are you, sir?? The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Pray for the conversion of hard hearts like St. Paul’s. Write to your representatives. I believe we will win this particular skirmish, but the war will only be ended by you at the ballot box.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

See also:

UPDATE: This post is part of a series covering this very important topic. To see the whole series, click here.

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Comments

  1. i signed the petition on the white house site to have the hhs mandate rescinded. it wasn’t because i’m anti-birth control (the pill is the only thing keeping me from being stuck in bed for a week every month) but instead because i believe that there should be a way for organizations to opt out on the basis of conscience. this isn’t an all-out war on catholicism — it’s the president and the hhs secretary forgetting that there are those (not just catholics but jews and some conservative protestant groups) for whom contraception is an issue of conscience.

    • The petition is at here for those who would like to sign it (if you can, the site was not accepting registrations when I checked today).

      Jen, in no way is the administration “forgetting” anything. This is a carefully calculated political decision to appease a portion of their support base without regard to either faith or constitutionality.

      Catholics and others have been fully engaged with the administration throughout. Trust was placed with the administration and the frequently repeated promises, directly to Catholic audiences, of sensible conscience protections. Since the HHS initial announcement, a great deal of dialog took place to make sure that the “final” decision would protect religious freedom. In the end, Obama decided to betray Catholics, other Christian conservatives, Jewish conservatives and ultimately – everyone who values religious freedom.

  2. Catholic Parishioner says:

    A petition? What a joke. How can a Catholic vote for the most pro-abortion President in the history of the United States?

    • Voting for the next president is a different issue altogether.

      The petition here is just an avenue to let this one, by his preferred means, know how we feel. I don’t think it will be at all representative and there is already a “counter petition” running. The president’s website requires registration and I would wager that those who oppose freedom of religion already have logins while those who cherish it do not. That just makes another hurdle to be heard.

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