GUEST EDITORIAL: The Assault on Religious Liberty and What You Can Do - Vote With An Informed Catholic Conscience
If the candidate supports policies that contradict faith and morals, he is unacceptable
Catholics are told that their voting must be guided by their consciences, but consciences must be formed, and that is part of the pastoral responsibility of the Church. It would appear that the government now wants the Church to abdicate that responsibility as well.
RICHMOND VA (Catholic Online) - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (U.S. Constitution - Amendment 1)
An unparalleled threat has emerged in America -an attack by the government on our religious freedoms. Most readers will be familiar with the announcement by the Secretary of HHS, self-described "Catholic" Kathleen Sebelius, that in implementing Obama care she would require most health-insurance plans to include in the preventive services they cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception - including contraceptives such as Ella that can operate as abortifacients - as well as sterilizations. This HHS ruling will permit the HHS bureaucracy to establish exemptions from this mandate only for "religious employers" that pass a three-fold litmus test. First, the organization's purpose must be the "inculcation of religious values;" second, it must "primarily employ(s) persons who share the religious tenets of the organization;" and third, it must "serve(s) primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization."
As the head of Catholic Charities USA observed, "the ministry of Jesus Christ himself" would not qualify for the exemption. Whether even the Church herself will qualify is questionable, but certainly Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic hospitals, food banks, homeless shelters, schools, and even many Church offices will not. Most certainly Catholic business owners who conduct their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs will be forced to provide these services. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, points out that this mandate will essentially require Catholic institutions either to virtually abandon their humanitarian mission or to become criminals: "Under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics. Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public? Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal."
The response from the Obama Administration came from Vice President Biden during his debate with Congressman and Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan. Toward the end of the debate, the candidates were asked to discuss "what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion." Congressman Ryan pointed out that the Obama administration through the Sebelius ruling is using Obamacare to assault our religious liberties: "They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals." Vice President Biden answered, ""With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact."
The problem, of course, is that it is NOT a fact. His statement was completely untrue. In reality, the so-called "accommodation", to which Biden was possibly referring, the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking , 77 Fed. Reg. 16501 (March 21, 2012), in no way changes the obligation of Catholic agencies "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." Catholics will still have to serve as a "vehicle", because they will still have to provide their employees with health coverage that will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay for these services will be used.
Another dangerous approach is the attempt to stifle what can be said from the pulpit. The American Freedom Law Center has just asked the Supreme Court to review a decision by the 6th Circuit Court to uphold section 168.931(1)(e) of the Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), which states, "A priest, pastor, curate, or other officer of a religious society shall not for the purpose of influencing a voter at an election, impose or threaten to impose upon the voter a penalty of excommunication, dismissal, or expulsion, or command or advise the voter, under pain of religious disapproval. Anyone who violates this statute "is guilty of a misdemeanor." The case is based on the conviction of ...
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