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Trampling on Religious Rights

The Department of Health & Human Services recently cut funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ campaign against human trafficking. Not because the campaign wasn’t helping the victims of sex trafficking. It was.

No, they cut it after the ACLU threatened to sue over the Bishops’ stance on contraception and abortion. As Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York put it, the government was “requiring that [the Conference’s] Migration and Refugee Services provide the ‘full range of reproductive services’ to trafficking victims.”

That, of course, is something no Catholic organization can do without violating its own most fundamental core teachings.

If “reproductive rights” ideologues are willing to sacrifice the well-being of refugees and trafficking victims, there’s no telling what they are willing to do with our religious freedom.

Actually, there is, which is why the Bishops' Conference recently held a press conference at which it announced the formation of a committee on religious liberty. The committee is a response to what Archbishop Dolan called “a drive to neuter religion” in American society.

This drive, according to Dolan, was being spear-headed by “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” whose goal is “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

Well, Catholics and other believers aren’t the only ones being hurt or even the biggest victims: Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, pointed out that “the services which the Catholic church and other denominations provide are more crucial than ever.” Yet, “it is becoming more and more difficult for us to deliver,” he says, “these services in a manner that respects the very faith that impels us to provide them.”

This may be an acceptable trade-off to bureaucrats in government and ACLU lawyers, but they are not paying the price for their fanaticism.

And “fanaticism” is the right word. Writer Jonathan Rauch, who is gay, has criticized what he deems as the “absolutist” attitude of many gay activists toward those who disagree with them.

Rauch called on them to “dial back the accusations of ‘bigot’ and ‘hater.’” More importantly, he called for them to “accept legal exceptions that let religious organizations discriminate against gays whenever their doing so imposes a cost [gays] can live with.”

Rauch acknowledges that Christians are right when they argue that same-sex marriage could result in churches having to choose between complying with the law or following Christian teaching.

While Rauch obviously disagrees with us, he understands that our concerns are genuine.

Unfortunately, Rauch is in a minority, which is why efforts like the Manhattan Declaration are so vital. Free societies should not ask its citizens to choose between God and Caesar, if for no other than that believers see serving those around as rendering service to God.

Yet, that’s increasingly the choice we must face. That’s why we must speak out and the place to start is by adding your name to the Manhattan Declaration. Go to

Because the next set of footsteps you here may be those of someone trampling on your rights, too.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

Publication date: November 22, 2011

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