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article imageCatholic bishops challenge Obama on religious freedom in the U.S.

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 10, 2011 in World
Catholic bishops in the U.S. are worried about religious freedom in the country. They have decided to challenge President Barack Obama on what they say is his administration's assault on religious freedom.
The Christian Post reports Catholic bishops have formed a committee to address issues of religious freedom in the U.S. The issues of concern to the bishops include, the Obama Administration's policy on Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the right of religious institutions, in spite of anti-discrimination laws, to choose their ministers ("ministerial exception" provision), and other issues such as the right of county clerks to refuse issuing of same-sex marriage certificates.
The "ministerial exception" provision is the subject of an ongoing thorny case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Catholic Culture reports that on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Hosanna-Tabor V. EEOC case, in which a teacher at a Lutheran school in Michigan claimed protection under Americans with Disabilities Act after the school sacked her because of a medical condition. The school claimed, however, that, as an employee of a religious institution, she is covered by the "ministerial exception" provision.
Bishop William Lori, who chairs the ad hoc committee the Catholic bishops have set up to address the problem of religious freedom in the U.S., has said Catholic bishops will follow up the new initiative to challenge the Obama Administration with the support of legal experts and lobbyists. The Bishop said,
"This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected."
According to the Christian Post, Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, after a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in September, wrote a letter to Catholic Bishops in America in which he spoke of the need for Catholic bishops to stand for religious liberty in the U.S. The Archbishop of New York confirmed in the letter that he had written President Obama, raising objections on "the effort to redefine legal marriage promoted by his Administration."
In the letter, the Archbishop said the Christian faith was in many ways under assault in America and that,
"This is most particularly so in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty."
The Archbishop asserted that Catholic bishops have the duty to protect America's 70 million U.S. Catholics from "...assault which now appears to grow at an ever accelerating pace in ways most of us could never have imagined."
Archbishop Dolan suggested close co-operation with national organizations, charities, ecumenical and inter-religious groups to form a "united and forceful front in defense of religious freedom in our nation."
Critics of the new initiative, however, allege a political motive undertone, saying that it is unfair of the bishops to construe the issue in Hosanna-Tabor V. EEOC case as evidence of the Obama Administration's war against religious liberty in the U.S.
Amy Sullivan, writing in TIME, alleges that in spite of the USCCB's loud talk about the Obama Administration's assault on the "critically important 'ministerial exception,'" and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the issue of greatest concern to the Catholic bishops is the proposed HHS rule that would require insurers to cover contraception. The Catholic Church is noted for its uncompromising opposition to contraception.
Amy Sullivan quotes a critic who alleges the campaign of the bishops is merely to make political grounds:
“To a certain extent, we’re seeing a replay of FOCA [the Freedom of Choice Act] here...There’s a lot of political ground to be made by having a campaign even if you’re expecting a different outcome.”
Ms. Sullivan concludes from the critic's statement:
In other words, even if HHS broadens its religious exemption and the court rules against the Obama Administration in Hosanna-Tabor, don’t expect the USCCB to summarily disband the religious liberty committee and make, say, the economy its election-year cause instead.
More about Catholic bishops, Religious freedom, Obama, DOMA
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