Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Ben Mitchell, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Craig Mitchell are sworn in before testifying at a hearing on Capitol Hill i n Washington Feb. 16.
There is confusion on the controversial health care proposal. Even our own Catholic News Service has been calling the requirement “the contraceptive mandate,” as if we are arguing the pros and cons of birth control. Wrong. It’s about religious freedom.
Some pundits have smugly chided us for our stand, saying most Catholics use contraception anyway. That’s missing the point. This is not about contraception, but about being compelled by our government to violate our conscience.
As humans, most of us lie and cheat. If we follow the logic of detractors, the church should not stand up for the eighth commandment and, what’s more, should be willing to give workers a stipend if they want to tell whoppers.
Many Americans focus on just half of the separation of church and state. They know the United States does not want a church-run government.
But fewer realize that the First Amendment also forbids government-run churches. The Health and Human Services mandate, which would require church institutions to violate religious conscience, clearly violates protections our founders wisely built. As one bishop told Congress, would we require Jewish delis to serve ham?
If this mandate goes unchecked, what will be next? Will our hospitals be forced to provide abortions?
The Obama administration would do best to apologize, push for stronger conscience protections and then move on to better goals, like making sure more Americans have health coverage.