Catholics, Evangelicals May Coordinate on Religious Freedom Event This Summer

The U.S. Catholic Church will hold an event this summer called "Fortnight for Freedom" to bring attention to religious freedom issues. The Christian Post has learned that discussions are underway to include evangelical organizations with these events. Evangelical organizations have expressed solidarity with Catholic leaders who oppose the Obama administration's birth control mandate, which, they argue, is a religious freedom issue.

In separate interviews, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the USCCB, and Galen Carey, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), both confirmed that discussions have taken place on how evangelicals might coordinate events with Catholics for "Fortnight for Freedom," but nothing has been finalized.

The Catholic bishops "have invited us to join them," Carey said Tuesday. "There have been discussions, we're not exactly sure what form that might take, but we certainly have expressed our solidarity with Catholics on [the religious freedom] issue."

"Fortnight for Freedom" will take place for two weeks this summer and end on the Fourth of July holiday.

"Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty," a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) press release explained.

The event will open with a special June 21 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption, Baltimore, Md., and end with a nationally televised July 4 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
On Monday, 43 Catholic agencies sued the federal government over the birth control mandate arguing that it violates their religious freedom. Catholic doctrine forbids contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs.

Colorado Christian University, an evangelical institution, also filed suit last fall, arguing that requiring coverage for abortifacient drugs, such as Plan B or the "morning after pill," violates their religious conscience because they oppose the use of these drugs.

The mandate, announced in January, would require employers to cover contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans. There is a religious exemption, but the exemption is so narrow that most religious groups would not qualify.

Carey noted that the NAE is involved with several religious freedom advocacy groups that also include the USCCB, and they have "talked together quite a bit" over the last several months because of the birth control mandate.

The NAE has not joined in any of the lawsuits, but it may file an Amicus, or "friend of the court," brief in the future to show their support for the Catholic position.

Evangelicals generally have a different view on contraception, Carey explained, "but the question of forcing religious groups to do something they think is wrong -- we're absolutely opposed to that."

"Fortnight for Freedom" was planned long before the birth control mandate, Walsh explained Monday, to bring attention to religious freedom issues at home and abroad, but the mandate will now become one area of focus during the event.

The birth control mandate "just proves the point we're making," Walsh said. "We fight for religious freedom in other countries, we certainly ought to have it in our own."

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