Basically, the Role of Religion Is at Risk

by Ed Wilkinson

Much of the contents of this week’s paper deals with religious liberty.  Check out the Bishop’s column, the front page story, the editorial and Father Lauder’s column.  There is a growing realization that the Church is under attack and we must respond.

The Obama Administration’s Affordable Health Care Act has mobilized church circles because of its threat to religious conscience and the ability to live by our faith.

Religious freedom is the fundamental basis of the U.S. Bill of Rights.  From it, all other freedoms emanate.  The brilliance of the Founding Fathers was to recognize that this is what made America different from the oppressive nations that wished to rule the New World.  People came to America to be free, to worship as they please, to believe in the religion of their choice.  The only restriction put upon religion was that the government would not establish a national church.

But the provisions of the new health laws, which are currently under review by the Supreme Court, would force all Americans to buy health insurance and require all companies supplying health care to pay for some practices that violate their religious tenets, such as birth control and abortifacient drugs.

Conscientious objection has been tossed out the window.  Could you hear the cry if freedom of conscience had been denied during the Vietnam War and everyone who was drafted had to submit to a combat role.  There would have been an uproar demanding the right to believe what one believes.

The same thing is at stake here.  Religious organizations are being threatened with laws that demand they violate their own teachings.

Fortunately, Catholics, who seem to be the primary target of these rules, are beginning to realize what are the repercussions of such acts.  Catholics who read and pay attention to the news see the discrimination that is being foisted upon them.  As a matter of fact, all persons of good faith are uniting in an effort to produce reasonable health care reform and not the travesty that was legislated in the Affordable Health Care Act.  Remember the famous dictum that we had to pass the law to find out what was in it.  Well, we passed it, and now we don’t like what we’re discovering.  It’s wrong.  It’s discriminatory.   It’s a threat to America’s ideals.

As good Americans, we are preparing to celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday.  The U.S. bishops have invited us to participate in a Fortnight of Freedom leading up to the Fourth of July.  It is a time to educate ourselves about the threats to our basic rights.  As Bishop DiMarzio points out in his column this week, liberties are not taken away all at once.  They are eroded, sometimes without realization of what is going on.  This is clearly what is happening under the current leadership of the country.

The diocese also will afford us opportunities to keep ourselves informed and to take action.  There is a check list on Page 4 beneath the bishop’s column to guide us.

“It’s important to say the struggle we are engaging in here is not a partisan issue,” said Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops’ ad hoc committee on religious liberty. “We didn’t choose the time. We didn’t choose the place.

“We’re not trying to throw an election. We’re simply trying to defend fundamental freedoms. It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s not a Catholic issue. It’s a freedom issue.