The Bishops, Obama and Religious Freedom
In the Orwellian doublespeak of Catholic Bishops, the ability to exclude, discriminate, and prohibit is a religious liberty that somehow trumps our constitution.
The new effort will become an adjunct of the bishops’ powerful and finely tuned lobbying machine in D.C. Last year, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life surveyed the leading faith-based lobbyists in the nation’s capital. The USCCB was near the top at $26.6 million.
In addition, the bishops have the well-heeled Knights of Columbus covering their backs. Based in New Haven, Conn., the Knights’ budget was an astounding $1.7 billion in 2009, and they’ve signed on to be “advisors” to the project.
The effort is calculated to resonate with the public. There’s a reason Dolan and other bishops throw around the term “religious liberty” so much: It sounds positive to most Americans.
But to the bishops, “religious liberty” has a very specific meaning. The church hierarchy tends to use the term when seeking to have church dogma written into law for all Americans to follow or when they’re demanding exemptions from general laws that apply to all groups.
For years, church lobbyists in Washington and in state capitals have argued that Catholics have a “religious liberty” right to educate their children in Catholic schools at taxpayer expense. This led to demands for vouchers and other types of public aid for the church’s parochial school system.
Now that concept is being expanded to cover a host of other issues. Church leaders argue, for example, that the “religious liberty” of Catholics is violated when governments recognize same-sex marriage - even though no churches are required to sanction or perform such ceremonies.
Similarly, Catholic pharmacists and other health care providers are increasingly asserting that their “religious liberty” is violated if they are expected to provide certain medications (such as Plan B) or take part in certain medical procedures (emergency abortions and sterilizing operations, for example).
Announcing the formation of the new lobbying arm, Dolan listed six areas of concern: a requirement in the new health care bill that private insurers cover birth control; a requirement that groups providing services to refugees provide reproductive services to victims of trafficking and minors; demands that HIV-prevention programs include condom distribution; the administration’s support for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act; the U.S. Justice Department’s stance in favor of abolishing the “ministerial exception” that gives religious groups broad leeway to discriminate in hiring and passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.