Terry Jeffrey

The regulation, they said, creates a class of Americans "with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing 'services' contrary to those values -- whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves -- without even the semblance of an exemption."

How does the Obama administration justify ordering Catholics to act against their faith?

First, it argues that Catholics lose the right to live according to the moral teachings of their church when they start a business. "Weingartz Supply Company is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion," Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery argued in a submission to Judge Cleland.

Well, what about a nonprofit institution such as a Catholic university? What about an individual Catholic layperson? How can the administration justify ordering them to act against their faith? The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Isn't the administration prohibiting the free exercise of religion when it orders Catholics to act against Catholic teachings?

"The Free Exercise Clause does not prohibit a law that is neutral and generally applicable even if the law prescribes conduct that an individual's religion proscribes," Assistant Attorney General Delery told the court. "The preventive services coverage regulations fall within this rubric because they do not target, or selectively burden, religiously motivated conduct."

In plain English: As the Obama administration interprets the First Amendment, it cannot order only Catholics to pay for the administration of a drug that kills an unborn child, but it can order all Americans -- including Catholics -- to pay for the administration of a drug that kills an unborn child.

Many bishops have spoken out clearly and courageously against President Obama's attack on religious freedom.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh wrote in his diocesan newspaper: "The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, 'To Hell with you!'"

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who leads the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, wrote a letter to be read by chaplains serving Sunday masses attended by U.S. military forces. Obama's mandate, the archbishop said, is "a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle."

Broglio and many other bishops declared: "We cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law."

In his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II cited St. Thomas Aquinas in explaining the Catholic teaching on unjust laws.

"This is the clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who writes that 'human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law," said the pope. "'But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence.'"

"To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty," said the pope, "it is also a basic human right."

President Obama has launched the greatest attack on religious liberty in the history of the United States. He hopes to divide Catholics from their church and American law from truth and justice.

There is no middle ground here. The church is right, the bishops are right, freedom of conscience is an alienable right, and Obama is more wrong about the meaning of liberty than any American president has ever been.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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