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Obama vs. Catholics: The War on Religious Freedom


The battle between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration has landed in headlines today, as the church begins a fight against the January 20th Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic employers and insurance agencies provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to employees and clients.


Nevermind that the church has been abundantly clear regarding its stance on contraception as morally abhorrent. This is not a murky or disputed position within the Catholic Church; it has generated controversy, to be sure, but never within the Church's hierarchy. From parish priests to the Pope himself, the teachings are consistent.

Yet here we have an administration that purports to moralize for us. Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius think the church is wrong, and that it should grant women access to contraception despite moral opposition.

Catholics are fighting back. Archbishop of New York and Cardinal-Designate Timothy Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, requested that priests around the nation address their congregations regarding the law. An excerpt from the letter read to my own this past weekend (which can be found here):

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a little over a week ago that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. We hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.


Advocates for so-called “women’s rights” have touted the mandate as necessary for the protection of “women’s health,” and claim women want such coverage. They point to the statistic that says 98% of Catholic women reported using some form of contraception. The argument goes that because Catholic women want and use contraception, the Church is obliged to provide it.

On the contrary, this completely misses the point. Perhaps nearly every Catholic couple uses contraception; that fact does not change the church's stance on the issue, and the church should not be required to acquiesce to public opinion on the matter. Indeed, Catholicism has a long and proud tradition of defying popular sentiment. Once, such adherence to the faith looked like martyrdom in the Roman Coliseum. These days, we face challenges that are more nuanced and obviously less bloody, but nonetheless important for preserving the integrity of the faith.

Indeed, this offensive against Catholic doctrine holds great significance for all religions. Make no mistake: this administration has violated the Constitution by attempting to regulate the sacred doctrine of a particular faith.


There’s no need to debate the finer points of the policy in question. Neither side will bend to the will of the other. The takeaway is simply this: if we try to force the Catholic Church to provide a service that impinges on its doctrine because it’s a service we want, then we forfeit a sacred freedom. If we are willing to abdicate freedom for convenience, then we have lost sight of the real purpose for which this country was founded. And I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t free birth control for all.

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