Up Front and Personal

Religious Liberty Is Issue for Candidates

by Wendy Long

While crisscrossing the state in my campaign for the U.S. Senate, I was recently sitting around a table talking with some women. I asked them, “What’s the most important issue facing our nation and our state?”

The tears welled up in one woman’s eyes, then spilled down her cheeks.

“Wendy, my daughter just graduated from college. She has a huge amount of debt. She can’t find a job anywhere. I was so proud of her, and now we don’t know what to do. Our children have become New York’s biggest export.”

With so many families struggling with unemployment, the high cost of groceries and gas, Medicare and Social Security headed for bankruptcy, and the federal government debt skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, it’s understandable that many Catholics here in New York have not focused on another threat to our values – a threat that’s as big as the failure of our elected officials to address our broken economy.

As I write this, our freedom as Catholics is being stomped upon by the Obama Administration. Obamacare is forcing Catholic institutions such as hospitals, schools, and charities, as of Aug. 1, to provide and pay for insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion-causing drugs.

The Obama Administration and my opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, insist that this government mandate is an issue of “women’s health.” Sen. Gillibrand actually claims that the Catholic Church is behind “attacks that are being launched against women’s rights and women’s health.”

Her charge is so grossly wrong that it is hard to know where to start. But let me set the record straight:

– The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of protecting the lives and health of women, and all Americans. I don’t think there is another institution in our nation’s history that has done so much for so many – whether in caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the poor, educating our children, and defending and protecting the weakest among us. The Church and her institutions have never attacked anyone, and they are certainly not attacking women.

– The Catholic Church believes in free will. The Church passes on to us its teaching of more than two millennia about human dignity and the sanctity of human life. The Church offers unconditional healing and help to all of us sinners. But Holy Mother Church has never — ever — attempted, as my opponent claims, to “make medical decisions for someone” who is employed by a Church institution.

– Our nation was born of the bedrock principle of freedom of religion: that the government may not dictate to people of faith that they have to take actions that violate that faith. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said, “The federal government should do what it’s traditionally done since July 4, 1776, namely back out of intruding into the internal life of the Church.”

– But for the first time in the history of our country, a President of the United States – and his allies, like my opponent – are ordering faithful Catholics and other people of conscience to genuflect at their altar of almighty government, to fall in line and obey, even if it violates their religious beliefs. If they do not abide by Obamacare’s abortion-contraception-sterilization mandate, many Catholic charitable institutions – as well as private businesses run by Catholic Americans – will face millions of dollars in fines that will force many of them out of business.

– This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with women’s health. It is about government intrusion into our Catholic faith and into the lives of all people of conscience. No one’s faith and beliefs will be safe if the Obama-Gillibrand mandate is allowed to stand. President Obama and Senator Gillibrand intend to force their anti-Catholic views on every single Catholic in this nation. And if they can crush Catholics under their boot heel, they can crush anyone else, too.

The Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre have filed suit against the Obama Administration to reverse the clear violation of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in Obamacare.

Bishop DiMarzio has issued the call to all of us: “As citizens of a nation that prides herself on religious liberty, we should be outraged that the government would … coerce any institution to cooperate with what they deem to be evil.”

Amen. We cannot sit by silently any longer as Washington attempts to crush our faith and our Church.[hr] Wendy Long is the nominee of the N.Y. Republican and Conservative parties for the United States Senate.

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