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Praying for Religious Freedom

This August, the HHS regulations that require religious non-profits to provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization to their employees are scheduled to go into effect.

Since the proposed regulations were announced in February, HHS and its supporters have tried to depict opposition to the regulations as merely a Catholic concern. The issue, they would have us believe, is the Catholic Church’s position on artificial birth control, not the abridgment of religious freedom.

Chuck Colson worked tirelessly to refute this nonsense. In the last few months of his life, he pointed out that the HHS regulations were part of a larger pattern. They were an example of what the Manhattan Declaration calls the “[trampling] upon the freedom ... to express [one’s] religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage.”

They’re of a piece with “the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions ... and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.”

What’s at stake is not a particular tradition’s view of contraception – it is every American’s ability to love their neighbor in the form of running hospitals, universities, and schools, while at the same time honoring the God who compels us to love our neighbor.

This understanding is why Chuck co-authored a Wall Street Journal opinion piece about this with Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. Come to and click on this commentary to read what they had to say.

And it’s why Chuck would want to us know about and support the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two-week “period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action” sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The goal of the fortnight, which runs from June 21 to July 4, is to emphasize what the bishops call “our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” in particular, religious liberty.

This emphasis is necessary when, as Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore put it, “the idea that individual persons have a right to conscientious objection ... has not merely been called into question, but has been mocked as some kind of novel or marginal theory.”

Indeed. No sooner had the bishops announced the Fortnight for Freedom than they were accused of injecting themselves into the upcoming elections. Funny, but I don’t remember anybody accusing the bishops of meddling in politics when they took a stand on immigration or preserving social programs.

More importantly, it ignores the fact that the bishops (and we) did not start this fight. Regardless of your views on the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” the road to expanding coverage and controlling costs did not have to pass through infringing upon religious freedom: That was a detour of the administration’s making.

While the Fortnight for Freedom is directed at Catholics, we should all wholeheartedly support its goals. And of course there is no good reason why we shouldn’t devote ourselves to prayer, study and public action regarding this issue – if anything, the opposite is true.

As I said, Chuck taught that this is not a Catholic-only issue. The assault on our most precious freedom -- freedom of religion -- concerns all Christians.

Publication date: June 20, 2012

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