The HHS mandate is not the only current threat to religious freedom. Additional controversies involving government meddling in religious affairs abound. These are affecting Catholic social-service agencies, adoption agencies, Catholic hospitals, universities, international humanitarian policies, and services to immigrants and refugees. Resolutions of these disputes will affect the conduct of the Catholic Church in the U.S. for many years to come.
A reduced respect for religious freedom in the United States has broad implications—at the individual, community, and international level. Every religious institution—as well as individuals and business owners—will be affected by the legal conclusions reached when the dust settles on these current controversies. Some institutions will challenge the government, perhaps to the point of contempt of the law. Some might close rather than pay the steep fines that would be imposed.
It should also be noted that women, particularly the poorest, will have lost a powerful ally if the Catholic Church is forced to choose between continuing its ministries and obeying the government. The Catholic Church is one of the last (and one of the most persistent and influential) voices supporting a vision of human sexuality which includes respect for the human body and for procreation, and decrying the objectification of women.
Finally, it’s not an overstatement to say that threats to religious freedom are worldwide. What will become of the U.S. voice on behalf of religious freedom if religious freedom is severely eroded here at home? What will become of concepts like equality, dignity, and natural rights in national and international (e.g., United Nations) documents and discussions without centuries of Judeo-Christian sources and witness to inform them?
Our bishops are clear on this matter: “Our faith requires us to defend the religious liberty granted us by God, and protected in our constitution. . . . We encourage you to hold firm, to stand fast, and to insist upon what belongs to you by right as Catholics and Americans. Our country deserves the best we have to offer, including our resistance to violations of our first freedom.”
WHAT DOES THE CHURCH TEACH ABOUT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY?
“The entire Catholic community in the United States [must] 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. . . . Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” –Pope Benedict XVI
“Religious liberty. . . . is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day. . . . If our obligations and duties to God are impeded, or even worse, contradicted by the government, then we can no longer claim to be a land of the free and a beacon of hope for the world.” –Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, USCCB
“Everyone should be immune from coercion by individuals, social groups, and every human power, so that, within due limits, no men or women are forced to act against their convictions. . . . The right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person.” –Declaration on Religious Liberty, Second Vatican Council
SIX THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE HHS MANDATE
1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or
2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience,
to pay for things they consider immoral.
3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and
devices as well as contraception.
4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the
5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly
against the mandate.
6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates.
—U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Learn more at usccb.org/conscience.