Today the Supreme Court ruled that the so-called “individual mandate — the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires individuals to purchase a health plan — was constitutional under Congress’ powers to tax.
This decision will allow the enactment of the ACA to proceed — and that is not without implications for religious liberty.
According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, two important issues to remember are these:
First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “high risk” insurance pools that would have covered abortion.
Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. . . . The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s “preventive services” mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.
The Bishops in their statement today urged Congress to pass and the administration to sign legislation to fix those flaws.
Threats to Religious Liberty should trouble people of all faiths. Here are two examples of how Protestant churches have been affected.
Discrimination against small church congregations. New York City enacted a rule that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and sixty other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for scores of other uses. This could be devastating to many smaller congregations. It is a simple case of discrimination against religious believers.
Christian students on campus. In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
Religious Liberty –This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement about the administration’s contraception and sterilization mandate that captured exactly the danger that we face:
“Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its ‘religious’ character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.”
— Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, Statement, Jan. 24, 2012.
White Plains Rally for Religious Freedom
The Fortnight for Freedom (14 days of prayer, study, and protest from June 21 to July 4) was launched in response to the Obama administration’s HHS mandate that will force Catholic institutions, like colleges and charities, and private businesses (like the Eternal Word Television Network, for example) to purchase insurance for their employees that covers contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs.
However, the mandate is only one of several recent encroachments on religious liberty, according to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who organized the Fortnight event.
The rally in White Plains was sponsored by the Westchester/Putnam Coalition for Religious Freedom and hosted by Tom Feranda and Judy Anderson of the Hudson Valley Coalition for Life.
The invocation — Thomas Jefferson’s Prayer for our Nation — was offered by Rev. Arthur Rojas, Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph’s Church in Yonkers. He said,”we are all here out of love for our country, whether our ancestors came over on the Mayflower or we ourselves are recent immigrants.” Fr. Rojas ended his prayer with the invocation “Viva Christo Rey” and asked for the prayers of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States.
Judy Anderson, then welcomed the crowd. She reminded them of Saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England under Henry VIII, who was sentenced to death for refusing to betray his God and his conscience and who declared on the scaffold that he was “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
The first speaker was Michael Smith, member of the Westchester County Legislature. He spoke about the Clinic Access Bill, which passed the legislature by a 10-7 vote on May 7. This bill would have restricted the rights of protestors at abortion clinics in the county, but it was vetoed by County Executive Rob Asterino. Smith praised Asterino’s ultimate courage for stating, “I’m against abortion, and I don’t care if I lose an election because of it.” Smith said we need more people like Asterino in elected positions and encouraged the audience to get involved and perhaps run for office.
The next speaker was Rev. George Kuhn, the pastor of St. Joseph’s in Yonkers. Before the rally began, Fr. Kuhn and his parishioners, joined by others from Christ the King Church and many rally-goers, prayed the rosary in English and Spanish in the small park across the street from the court house. Then they marched together to the rally.
Fr. Kuhn made it clear that the Church would not accept the false framing of options by which it would either have to accept the Obama mandate or abandon its mission to those who need its help. He said that the true “mandate” given by Christ to the Church at the Last Supper was one of unconditional love — both to friends and enemies. For years, he said, we have been watering down and bending our faith. Now, he said is the time to stand up for what we believe in — and for religious freedom.
Among the other speakers was Raymond W. Belair, Esq., of Belair and Evans LLP. Mr. Belair warned the audience that what they are fighting for is freedom from government interference in the exercise of religion.
He said that the phrase “freedom of worship” is just a code word used by those who want to limit the church to its services and prayers and mean to exclude it from any meaningful participation in the public square.
If the administration can limit what the church can do through the HHS mandate, he said, it’s only a matter of time before another administration will go even further.
The pledge of allegiance and singing was led by Naval Officer Ret. Regina Reilly. Other priests in attendance were Rev. Paul Waddell of St. Margaret of Cotona Church in the Bronx, Rev. Peter Scarumuzzo, of St. Anthony of Padua in West Harrison, and Rev. Chris Montero.
“Sometimes through our nation’s history, brave men and women have had to raise their hands in defense — or even take up arms to defend — our sacred liberties.
Today we lift up our hands in prayer to thank God for our liberties and ask Him to defend them.”
Listen to his whole homily here. (It’s only 2:42 minutes long.)
June 21 through July 4 will mark 14 days of prayer, study, and public witness for religious freedom for Catholics throughout the United States. The events begin with Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrating mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on June 22 at 7 a.m. (it will be taped and televised on EWTN at 10 a.m.).
Although Rockland Right to Life is not a Catholic organization, we support them and people of all faiths who seek to uphold religious liberty and refuse to comply with state mandates that try to compel churches to act against their own teaching, preaching, and sacredly held beliefs.
For events in Rockland, please click here: Continue reading
On Friday, 40 demonstrators from Rockland joined over 500 New Yorkers who assembled at Federal Hall on Wall Street in NYC, to rally for Religious Freedom and protest the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
The ACA contains a mandate that requires all employers — including religious schools and hospitals — to provide health insurance for their employees that covers contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. There is an exemption, but it’s so narrow that most religious institutions would not qualify.
Currently, 43 Catholic groups — including dioceses, colleges, and healthcare agencies — have filed lawsuits against the mandate because “it entails an element of government coercion against conscience,” according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“This is such a vital issue,” Rockland’s Eileen Peterson, president of the Rockland County Catholic Coalition, told The Christian Post. “Never in the history of the United States of America have we ever been forced to violate core beliefs in our conscience by any government, so this is huge. If we do not take a stand now, then we will have nothing to stand for.”
Tom Fabry, also of Rockland, said he believes the Supreme Court, which is reviewing the ACA, will rule that it is unconstitutional. Nevertheless, he said, “America better wake up . . . Every year there are approximately 50 million babies killed through abortion worldwide. That’s a billion every 20 years. And that doesn’t count the ones that are killed by the different types of pills.”
The speakers at the New York rally included Alveda King of Priests for Life, Dr. Anne Nolte of the Gianna Healthcare Center for Women, Christopher Bell of Good Counsel Homes, Edward Mechmann of the Archdiocese of New York, and Maria McFadden Maffucci of the Human Life Foundation.
Over 75,000 attended Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies in 164 cities on Friday.