Last week 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions throughout America announced lawsuits against President Obama’s attack on religious liberty. This raises significantly the number of federal suits filed over the blatantly anti-Christian (other religions are effectively exempted) moves by the administration.
Among those suing is Notre Dame. The Notre Dame administration has been a staunch supporter of Obama, awarding him an honorary doctor of laws degree at their 164th commencement. This they did before his attack on religious freedom but over the strenuous objection of the bishops who cited Obama’s atrocious record in support of abortion. Their complaint is online as are comments from Fr. Jenkins, their president.
Overall, the list (currently) includes 23 separate cases filed by 55 individual plaintiffs. The Beckett Fund has published a complete list with details about each case.
The bishops of the Michigan Catholic Conference explain the lawsuits:
Another very, very good video comes from the Archdiocese of Washington:
Cardinal Timothy Dolan (president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) simply describes the effect of Obama’s policy as strangling,” “straight-jacketing,” “handcuffing” and “choking” the Church:
Father Barron puts religious liberty in a historical context after his recent trip to the UK.
Mary Ann Glendon
The best written overview of the situation comes from Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon. It was published in the Wall Street Journal last Tuesday. This is the 1 piece I would send to someone who is confused on this issue. Many are confused too, as the administration and their proxies in government and the media do their best to make it something else (e.g. “war against women” or “Catholics taking away your birth control”).
This week Catholic bishops are heading to federal courts across the country to defend religious liberty. On Monday they filed 12 lawsuits on behalf of a diverse group of 43 Catholic entities that are challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) sterilization, abortifacient and birth-control insurance mandate.
Like most Americans, the bishops have long taken for granted the religious freedom that has enabled this nation’s diverse religions to flourish in relative harmony. But over the past year they have become increasingly concerned about the erosion of conscience protections for church-related individuals and institutions. Their top-rated program for assistance to human trafficking victims was denied funding for refusing to provide “the full range of reproductive services,” including abortion. For a time, Catholic Relief Services faced a similar threat to its international relief programs. The bishops fear religious liberty is becoming a second-class right.
Along with leaders of other faiths who have conscientious objections to all or part of the mandate, they hoped to persuade the government to bring its regulations into line with the First Amendment, and with federal laws such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that provide exemptions to protect the conscience rights of religious institutions and individuals.
On Jan. 20, however, HHS announced it would not revise the mandate or expand its tight exemption, which covers only religious organizations that mainly hire and serve their co-religionists. Instead, the mandated coverage will continue to apply to hospitals, schools and social service providers run by groups whose religious beliefs require them to serve everyone in need.
Continued attempts to solve the problem by negotiation produced only an announcement by the Obama administration in February that insurance providers would pay for the contested services. Since many Catholic entities are self-insured and the others pay the premiums, the bishops’ concerns were not alleviated.
The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women’s health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions.
The media have implied all along that the dispute is mainly of concern to a Catholic minority with peculiar views about human sexuality. But religious leaders of all faiths have been quick to see that what is involved is a flagrant violation of religious freedom. That’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared, “We’re all Catholics now.”
More is at stake here than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide social services like health care and education to everyone regardless of creed, and to do so without compromising their beliefs. At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.
If religious providers of education, health care and social services are closed down or forced to become tools of administration policy, the government consolidates a monopoly over those essential services. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it, we are witnessing an effort to reduce religion to a private activity. “Never before,” he said, “have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith.”
With this week’s lawsuits, the bishops join a growing army of other plaintiffs around the country, Catholic and non-Catholic, who are asking the courts to repel an unprecedented governmental assault on the ability of religious persons and groups to practice their religion without being forced to violate their deepest moral convictions.
Religious freedom is subject to necessary limitations in the interests of public health and safety. The HHS regulations do not fall into that category. The world has gotten along fine without this mandate – the services in question are widely and cheaply available, and most employers will provide coverage for them.
But if the regulations are not reversed, they threaten to demote religious liberty from its prominent place among this country’s most cherished freedoms. That is why Cardinal Dolan told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on April 8: “We didn’t ask for this fight, but we won’t back away from it.”
I marked the bold text above as the key. Father Zuhlsdorf has also added his commentary and support.
Father Terence Henry, president of Franciscan University, discusses how Obama’s mandate impacts his institution:
Here is a sampling of some new articles written on this topic in the last few weeks:
- 2012 National Religious Freedom Conference: Rising Threats to Religious Freedom
- A Sleeping Church Wakes Up
- A Sunny Side to the Obama Mandate?
- A sleeping church wakes up
- ABC Skips Catholic Lawsuit Over Birth Control Mandate; NBC Allows 20 Seconds
- Archbishop urges people of all faiths to stand for religious freedom
- Becket Fund Praises Courageous Institutions for Joining the Fight for Religious Liberty
- Biggest Religious Lawsuit in U.S. History Launched, Liberal Evening News Shows Ignore It
- Bishop Morlino Decries Georgetown Invitation To Sebelius
- Cardinal Dolan Applauds Church Agencies As They Challenge HHS For Violating Religious Freedom
- Cardinal Dolan of NY, Cardinal Wuerl of D.C., Notre Dame–And 40 Other Catholic Dioceses and Organizations–Sue Obama Administration
- Catholic Business Leaders File Federal Lawsuit Challenging HHS Mandate
- Catholic dioceses/organizations, including OSV, file massive religious liberty lawsuit
- Catholic organizations file religious liberty lawsuits against the federal government in a dozen jurisdictions
- Centennial moment: Archbishop Noll on church-state relations
- Defending Religious Freedom in Full: A Generation’s Challenge
- Dolan: White House is “strangling” Catholic church
- Federal lawsuits by Catholic dioceses, groups seek to stop HHS mandate
- Forced Abortion Converage: It’s Next
- Forty-three Catholic organizations file lawsuits against HHS mandate
- Franciscan University Drops Student Health Insurance Due to HHS Mandate
- Fury Spreads: Catholic Leaders Join MRC Outrage Over Network Silence on Catholics vs. Obama Lawsuit
- Good for Religion, Good for America
- HHS Information Central
- Inside the Beltway: Lawsuit, what lawsuit?
- Mary Ann Glendon explains why Bishops and Catholic institutions are suing the Federal Government
- Massive Religious Lawsuit Eclipsed on CNN by ‘Stroller Brigade’ Protest of About 100
- National Day of Ironic Prayer
- Nine Lawsuits for Religious Freedom – A Brief Rundown of the Arguments
- “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” and the State
- Pelosi: No to Provision Protecting Chaplains From Being Ordered to Act Against Faith
- Pres. Obama is finally going to be properly vetted – before an election
- “Sober Determination” in Defense of Religious Freedom
- Surprise! MSM Ignoring Catholic Lawsuits against Government
- The Declaration of Religious Independence
- The Triumph of Ideology Over Law
- This Is A Serious Attack on Religious Freedom
- We Cannot Be Silent: Obama Supporting Gay Marriage
- White House Lie: Our Door is Open to Bishops
- Why we are suing the government
- You Should Be Worried!
- Your Move, Obama