Yesterday, the Administrative Committee of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a public statement denouncing what it called “an unwarranted government definition of religion.” The Conference spelled out what the debate over President Obama’s birth control mandate is about:
This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church–consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions–to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.
So, what’s the issue? The Conference explains that the Obama health care mandate, which requires Catholic employers to provide coverage for their employees that includes contraception, is “a new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry.” It is, they continue, “A mandate to act against our teachings … A violation of personal civil rights …” The Conference asked for its adherents to pray for “penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our First Freedom – religious liberty.”
Clearly this controversy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the Obama Administration would be wise to consider the religious people they alienate before continuing their obvious war on religion.