Religious freedom is a phrase being bandied about today for all the wrong reasons. Not all legal defense teams or media types are causing it, but there is a smattering of confusion about it in the public eye these days.
I checked with a few friendly legal sources to see what religious freedom should mean. The Thomas More Law Center, for example, says it affirms “the right of Christians to publicly practice their religion and freely express their religious beliefs. Our Founding Fathers fought for a nation built on a foundation of religion and morality.”
The Alliance Defense Fund tells those visiting its web site that religious freedom is under attack in America today, explaining that the American Civil Liberties Union’s “targeted attacks on religious freedom are more serious and widespread than you may realize. In courtrooms and schoolrooms, offices and shops, public buildings and even churches…those who believe in God are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced.”
And the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which recently announced a new project to provide free defense to religious hospitals against government-ordered abortion, stands on this principle: “Freedom of religion is a basic human right that no government may lawfully deny; it is not a gift of the state, but instead is rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Here we have three consistent statements from legal groups that have not only talked the talk but have walked the walk. And I am positive that all would agree that when it comes to the media and the Obama administration, religious freedom does not mean the same thing for all religious organizations or groups. It appears to depend on whose agenda is being defended when decisions are made to discriminate against religious bodies or embrace their ideologies.
For example, when the “ground zero mosque” became a bone of contention in the media, President Obama boldly defended plans to build the mosque saying, “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”
Oh really? Isn’t this the same president whose administration has made it clear that health care reform equates with taxpayer financing for abortion and abortive birth control? This is why Cardinal Francis George stated in his March 23, 2010, letter to Congress, “We as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion.”
Indeed, it appears that the White House has a skewed view of religious freedom when the subject is Catholic principles that prohibit abortion and contraception. For example, in South Carolina, the Obama Administration went after Belmont Abbey College for refusing to cover birth control in the health insurance policy it provides employees. And while, at this juncture, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that the policy is discriminatory, the college has vowed to fight that ruling tooth and nail.
What’s occurring in South Carolina is not an isolated incident. In Wisconsin, and several other states, Catholic dioceses are being forced by law to provide birth control in their insurance policies as well.
While diocesan spokesmen have said that employees who avail themselves of the contraceptive benefit could be terminated, it does not take a Rhoads scholar to figure out how quickly the government would pounce on the Church upon learning of the first firing!
And that’s the irony, isn’t it? The media is up in arms over a mosque that is, to many Americans, an offense to every family affected by the tragedy of September 11, 2001. But the same media is eerily silent when Catholic health care institutions, Catholic educational facilities and other such entities are roundly discriminated against by pro-death government policies.
Religious freedom is an American principle that is being pulverized by the same political and media machine that has, for more than 30 years, protected the so-called woman’s “freedom of choice.” These death merchants have forgotten the one simple truth spoken by Pope John Paul II (Veritatis splendor #96): “There can be no freedom apart from or in opposition to the truth, the categorical—unyielding and uncompromising—defense of the absolutely essential demands of man’s personal dignity must be considered the way and the condition for the very existence of freedom.”
Religious freedom? No! Slavery to evil? Yes!