US Senate Denies Free Exercise of Religion, Tables the Blunt Amendment
In addition to the Right to Religious Freedom, what is also at risk is access to Catholic Health Care in the United States for those who need it the most
In the history of the United States of America, from the beginning, Catholic Hospitals existed to care for the sick. The Catholic Church is currently one of the very largest health care providers in the United States of America. If this Administration persists in its iron handed effort to compel the Church to bend the knee to a new Caesar, that service to the Nation is placed in jeopardy. It appears that the administration wants to remove the vital role of mediating institutions such as the Church in serving the Common Good of society through providing health care. One must now ask - Why?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Since January 20, 2012 when the unjust Edict issued by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, was issued, Catholics have heard strongly worded and courageous letters read at Mass, written by the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Every single US Bishop has stood up to this injustice. We have been asked to rise up in prayer, fasting and concerted Catholic Action.We have only just begun our fight.
The mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to provide sterilization, abortion inducing drugs and contraception in their health care plans, making them available for free. The alleged "exemption" for religious employers did not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other expressions of our Catholic faith and mission. The alleged compromise later offered was simply sophistry. It accomplished nothing, except perhaps pouring salt into the wound.
Catholics believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands a response which goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister's keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic.We will not retreat from the world because we are called into it by the God who still loves the world so much that he sends his Son.We believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, continuing every aspect of His redemtive mission until he returns.
The HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion. That protection, enshrined in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, is based upon the Fundamental Human right to Religious Freedom secured by the Natural Law. The HHS Edict is an unjust law which must be opposed. The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force the Catholic Church to act against its deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience.
Failure to comply with the HHS Edict will bring punitive measures upon the Church and her institutions in the form of onerous fines. They would have the practical result of closing many of the Church's outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion. Certainly this not only injures the Church, it injures American society. What is at stake is the continued existence of many of the Catholic outreaches in the United States.
In his recent letter to the US Bishops, Cardinal Dolan wrote, "The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community." He is absolutely correct.
Concerning the purported "accommodation" he wrote "On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed "without change." The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain."
His summary of the threat to Religious Freedom reminded us, "Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government's decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations."
"Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a "privilege" arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily."
"In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our "first freedom" and respect for it must be broad and inclusive-not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is "religious enough" to warrant religious freedom protection."
The Cardinal puts the real issue forward, "This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization - although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal ...
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