The Parable of the Kosher Deli: Bishop Lori Before Congress Defending Religious Liberty
Will our nation continue to be one committed to religious liberty and diversity?
We can learn from this brilliant testimony as we undertake the struggle to defend the Church against this unjust Edict. We call upon all of our readers around the globe to pray for his Excellency - and for all of our Bishops. We pledge to stand in unwavering solidarity with them.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday February 16, 2012, the Most Reverend William E. Lori, the Bishop of Bridgeport and Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty, gave testimony before Congress. He appeared before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the United States House of Representatives.
Bishop Lori spoke on behalf of all of the Catholic Bishops of the United States. They are unanimous in their effort to have the HHS Edict which seeks to compel Catholic institutions and organizations to distribute contraceptives and abortion inducing drugs as well as offer sterilization rescinded. Now is not the time for Catholics to be critical of the US Catholic Bishops. Now is the time for all of us to stand with them.
The Bishop's testimony was brilliant. We want all of our readers to learn from it as we all undertake the struggle to defend the Church against this unjust Edict and a New Catholic Action. We call upon all of our readers around the globe to pray for his Excellency - and for all of our Bishops. We pledge to stand in unwavering solidarity with them. Here is Bishop Lori's complete testimony:
Bishop William Lori
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, for the opportunity to testify today. For my testimony today, I would like to tell a story. Let's call it "The Parable of the Kosher Deli."
Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork. There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate.
The Orthodox Jewish community-whose members run kosher delis and many other restaurants and grocers besides-expresses its outrage at the new government mandate. And they are joined by others who have no problem eating pork-not just the many Jews who eat pork, but people of all faiths-because these others recognize the threat to the principle of religious liberty.
They recognize as well the practical impact of the damage to that principle. They know that, if the mandate stands, they might be the next ones forced-under threat of severe government sanction -to violate their most deeply held beliefs, especially their unpopular beliefs.
Meanwhile, those who support the mandate respond "But pork is good for you. It is, after all, the other white meat." Other supporters add "So many Jews eat pork, and those who don't should just get with the times." Still others say "Those Orthodox are just trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else."
But in our hypothetical, those arguments fail in the public debate, because people widely recognize the following.
First, although people may reasonably debate whether pork is good for you, that's not the question posed by the nationwide pork mandate. Instead, the mandate generates the question whether people who believe-even if they believe in error-that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions. In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
Second, the fact that some (or even most) Jews eat pork is simply irrelevant. The fact remains that some Jews do not-and they do not out of their most deeply held religious convictions. Does the fact that large majorities in society-even large majorities within the protesting religious community-reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute? Does it allow government to punish that minority belief with its coercive power? In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
Third, the charge that the Orthodox Jews are imposing their beliefs on others has it exactly backwards. Again, the question generated by a government mandate is whether the government will impose its belief that eating pork is good on objecting Orthodox Jews. Meanwhile, there is no imposition at all on the freedom of those who want to eat pork.
That is, they are subject to no government interference at all in their choice to eat pork, and pork is ubiquitous and cheap, available at the overwhelming majority of restaurants and grocers. Indeed,
some pork producers and retailers, and even the government itself, are so eager to promote the eating of pork, that they sometimes give pork away for free.
In this context, the question is this: can a customer come to a kosher deli, demand to be served a ham sandwich, and if refused, bring down severe government sanction on the deli. In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.
So in our hypothetical story, because the hypothetical ...
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