(Photo: Reuters/Mel Evans)
Catholic bishops across the U.S. want the Obama administration to take notice that it is destroying religious freedom and the rights of believers in America.
US Catholic bishops recently formed an ad hoc committee specifically aimed at addressing religious freedom in the U.S. The decision to challenge the president this way is a historic one, as this is the first time bishops in America have formed such a widespread group to address religious freedom in the country.
Among the religious liberty issues the group is unhappy with the Obama administration include: county clerks facing legal action for refusing to participate in same-sex unions; the administration's attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and the attack on the “ministerial exception,” which protects the right of religious institutions to choose their own spiritual leaders and teachers regardless of anti-discrimination laws.
In a letter obtained by The Christian Post, the Rev. Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, wrote to the American bishops after the September’s meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He writes: “We are now committed regarding the urgent need we face to safeguard religious liberty inherent in the dignity of the human person.”
“I wrote to President Obama to object to the continuing threats to religious liberty in the context of the effort to redefine legal marriage promoted by his Administration. …If we do not act now, the consequences will be grave.”
“In its many and varied applications for Christians and people of faith, is now increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America. This is most particularly so in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty,” he said in the letter.
Bishop William Lori, who was selected to chair the new committee, says the bishops are serious about the new campaign and will seek the help of lawyers, added staff, lobbyist and experts in the area of religious freedom.
“This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected,” Lori said.
Archbishop Dolan also stressed in his letter that "...as shepherds of over 70 million U.S. citizens we share a common and compelling responsibility to proclaim the truth of religious freedom for all, and so to protect our people from this assault which now appears to grow at an ever accelerating pace in ways most of us could never have imagined.”
Dolan also said the committee will work closely with national organizations, charities, ecumenical and interreligious partners and scholars “to form a united and forceful front in defense of religious freedom in our nation. And its work will begin immediately.”
He said that there have been multiple private letters sent to President Obama about his administration’s violations against religious liberty, but none of those letters received a response.
Time Magazine reports that despite the heated rhetoric, legal observers think the uproar about religious liberty could be politically motivated.
“To a certain extent, we are seeing a reply of the Freedom of Choice Act here,” Richard Doerflinger, who heads up pro-life activities, told Time.
“There is a lot of political ground to be made by having a campaign even if you are expecting a different outcome. But Health and Human Services must think the Catholics and other religious groups are fools.”
He says many of these issues really are a “great imposition on religious freedom and the right of conscience by the government that he has seen in years.”