Catholic Bishops Wage War on True Religious Freedom

Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a proclamation that called for every priest, parish and layperson to participate in a "great national campaign" to "defend religious liberty", which they said is "under attack, both at home and abroad." In fact, there are more than 100 upcoming “religious freedom” rallies scheduled nationwide.

True religious freedom is the ability to practice your religion and hold your religious beliefs, as long as those beliefs and practices do not infringe upon the religious freedom others, break the laws of the country we live in, or expect special government privileging. The secular character of our government is the best guarantee of the freedom for people of all religions to protect this right—whether they are Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, or any other religion —or non-religion. 

The truth is that religious liberty does not mean that the government should excuse any person or organization from following the law based on their religion, nor does it mean that the government should fund any religious group that uses the funding to further its religious agenda. Religious institutions are not above the law, nor are they entitled to special treatment or funding.

To push its massive attack on true religious liberty, the USCCB is pushing a false definition of religious freedom—and it will be massive.

"This is bigger in that it's not a one-time thing, not aiming for a specific Sunday" said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the communications director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a CNN article. "It's going to be extensive and it's going to be occurring over a few years."

In a statement, the USCCB cited seven examples of what they say are violations of religious freedom. One of the complaints took issue with the federal government for refusing to reauthorize a grant to a Catholic organization that was supposed to serve the victims of sex trafficking but refused to provide or refer the victims to services for abortion and birth control. In other words, they are complaining that they lost a government contract, after they refused to provide the very people they were supposed to be helping, with the necessary care.

In its statement, the USCCB also complained that some states are cutting off contracts to Catholic agencies that discriminate in state adoptions. They also complained about the HHS regulation that religious institutions are not exempt from offering insurance coverage that includes contraception care. Not only did the USCCB complain that they were held to the same laws that secular organization are held to—they feel the government should fund Catholic organizations even if they break the laws of the land.

Catholics for Choice agrees. In a recent statement, they wrote, "[The USCCB] have sought to redefine religious liberty so that it is limited to policies and issues that they support, and in order for them to get their way, they are happy to deny the religious liberty of those who wish to be free from the dictates of the US bishops…The bishops' idea of 'religious liberty' proposes that one narrow interpretation of one religious tradition should be allowed to run roughshod over the religious beliefs of every single American."

The Supreme Court ruled on this over 130 years ago. In its 1878 decision on Reynolds vs. the United States, the Supreme Court took up the question of whether the government's laws overruled religious belief and found that they did.  The decision read, in part, "Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances."

And subsequent rulings have been in agreement with the court’s original decision.

In the 1986 case, Bowen v. Roy, the court ruled that “Free exercise clause does not require Government to conduct its internal affairs in ways that comport with the religious beliefs of particular citizens.”

 In 1990, in the case of Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, the court’s decision read, “…the right of free exercise does not relieve individual of obligation to comply with valid or neutral law of general applicability on ground that law proscribes, or requires, conduct that is contrary to his religious practice, as long as law does not violate other constitutional protections.”

The Supreme Court knew then that religious liberty doesn't put believers above the law but it seems like there are lot of people in America today who need to be reminded of that, including the USCCB, which believes that “religious freedom” gives it the right to ignore U.S. laws and force its brand of religion on the masses.

The USCCB is asking the government to privilege its particular brand of religion over others, under a smoke screen of religious persecution.  Catholics, like every other religious group, are more than welcome to practice their beliefs—that is one of the cornerstones of this country. However, true religious freedom allows for individuals to make their own decisions. What the USCCB and is trying to do is impose its religion on others—a direct affront to true religious freedom.

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Well said but not strong enough for this enemy of the catholic church. I was forced by a zealous catholic mother (and father) to attend a parochial school, K - 8. I was a precocious child and the sisters of (NO) mercy laid the hurtin' on me on an almost daily basis. A sadistic nun punched me in the face one morning, for a minor offense, blackening both of my eyes. When I walked home for lunch and my mother, with a horrified look asked "what happened?" and I related the incident her demeanor changed immediately. She said, "well, you must have done something wrong" as she walked away, ending the exchange. This was the way it was then. You didn't challenge the church authorities and they could do anything they wanted with impunity! In fact, parents of the kids that attended St Mary's School had to sign a document giving complete disciplinary authority to the school administration for any reason! They're trying to hang on to this illegitimate authority with great tenacity. I won't live to see the day but you can be sure it's coming for this supremely evil organization. They will die eventually and I say GOOD RIDDANCE!!
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This is one of the many reasons that I no longer belong to the Catholic Church. First of course, I don't believe in an Old Man who lives in the sky, who made man in his own image and then punishes us for being human. Maybe if I had some magic beans I could grow a beanstalk and find out but, like God, magic beans exist only in Fairy Tales.
As as social scientist it is painful to observe the results of forty-plus years of tampering with the educational policies and practices of the common schools and above. Knowledge of history, of why and how this nation has separation of church and state is unknown by the current leaders of The Roman Catholic Church and fundamentalist Protestant Churches. The notion of freedom FROM the indoctrination of religion is missing in the body politic. We are intellectual imbeciles, at best. How can we regain this awareness?
Hi Lauren, It is great that you're watchdogging this. But here's a suggestion: instead of saying we can call/write the media and/or politicians, you should set up petitions for us to sign online (see what or Care2 or other petition sites have to offer). Link to them in your letters to us. In other words, make it easy for us to act. Many of us sign several petitions like this a day, so go with the flow we already have. And they are EFFECTIVE, no matter what the whiners say. Look into it! Thanks!
Words cannot describe the loathing I have for the Catholic Church. I am particularly disturbed at the access the priests and bishops have to the President. We see the stories of the Secret Service who had sex with professional prostitutes. These are consenting adults. Prostitution is legal in the country where this occurred. There will be an investigation. Yet the President sits down with the pedophile protectors, those who prey on innocent children. Unlike Ireland, there is no investigation of these crimes against humanity in these United States. It is up to individual victims. The Catholic Monarchy spends millions on lawyers whose main goal is to further victimize and humiliate these victims, sometimes using information obtained from church sponsored therapists who betray their own patients and feed confidential information to the church lawyers. Horrible. Horrible.
The horrible irony of this action by the Catholic bishops will probably be a further incitement of the kind of violence toward its "enemies" that we saw in Wisconsin in the bombing of the Planned Parenthood Clinic. We should resolve to continually confront them with these violent acts that result from their faith.
I can't understand why we are at this point!? As a supposedly non-profit (tax exempt) organization the range of political activities by religious groups are strictly defined. The group United for Separation of Church and State are supposed to be the watchdogs for the infringements. You/we need to hold the politicians feet to the fire who allow the religious groups (notably USCCB) to flaunt the law. They are nothing but thief's by availing themselves of political might without paying for them.
Thanks for posting. I'll be writing a letter to our local paper and try to bite my tongue hard enough so it will get published. Threat to religious freedom? Let someone run for POTUS who doesn't profess to believe in a religious fairy tale and see how far they get.
Every religion wants preferential treatment as well as the freedom to promote their religion in the governmental sphere. The separation of government and religion protects us form this danger. KEEP GOVERNMENT SEPARATE FROM RELIGION AND KEEP IT SECULAR!! It is the secret to our success as a democracy. Dave Peck
I have been published more than 30 times in the Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, FL, under the names "Jerry Jenkins" or "Marjorie Taylor." All of my letters support the secular/nonbeliever position. We recently attacked the pedophilia of the Catholic priests, et al. It was published. I would do more than write letters, but I don't know what to do. Any suggestions?

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