This last Sunday before Election Day finds Catholics across the nation, and beyond, uniting in both prayer and advocacy to protect freedom of religion as provided in the Constitution. Interestingly, the emphasis on Catholic values and teachings, as a result of the recent defense of freedom of religion, may also end up strengthening religious faith among Catholics in general.
Since the announcement of what is now familiarly termed, “the HHS mandate,” Catholics and Christians of other denominations have denounced the ObamaCare provision that demands that most employers, including those associated with churches, grant free contraception, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees through their health insurance plans.
This coercion to violate faith beliefs in order to satisfy government requirements has led to a veritable onslaught of litigation by Catholic dioceses and institutions, the institutions of other Christian denominations, and individual business owners. As Barack Obama attempts to be elected to a second term, he is faced with 38 lawsuits and over 110 individuals from around the country who represent those whose religious liberty is being challenged by the mandate.
In the swing state of Colorado, a group of lay Catholics has placed a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Denver Post to drive home the significance of religious liberty in Tuesday’s election. Regarding the ad, J.D. Flynn, chancellor of the Denver archdiocese, said, “I think the folks who organized getting the ad together want to ensure everybody understands what’s at stake not only for the Church, but for the country, when religious liberty is compromised.”
The ad features the full text of a letter written by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila about religious freedom and the election. “I just think it speaks to the quality and commitment of the lay people in the Archdiocese of Denver that they want to support the archbishop in this way,” Flynn commented. “Our country is the product of religious liberty. When we undermine that for something as short-sighted as free contraception, everybody is in serious trouble.”
“As Americans we have a civic responsibility to vote and to participate in the political process,” Archbishop Aquila said. “As Catholics, we have a moral duty to vote with an informed conscience, and to pray for wisdom and guidance as we head to the voting booth.”
As a way to call Catholics to special prayer for religious liberty, Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception will expose the Blessed Sacrament for Eucharistic Adoration on Election Day, November 6th.
“Our founding fathers understood that without these freedoms, especially religious liberty, our democratic experiment would fail,” Aquila wrote. He added that religious liberty faces “an unprecedented threat” from the HHS mandate, which “undermines the promise of the First Amendment.”
Catholic parents, too, have taken more notice of what their children are being taught in schools, and some have voiced objections to government interference in their parochial schools. In Orleans, Ottawa, Canada, Catholic parents denounced a high school trip into the U.S. to Ohio when they discovered their students would be going door-to-door in support of President Obama’s re-election.
The trip, which was organized by civics teacher Scott Searle, a volunteer for the Obama for America campaign, was cancelled when parents called the school board, furious that it would permit a trip to assist a U.S. president who has disdain for the values of Catholics.
“Parents were complaining that students would be supporting a politician holding pro-abortion views,” said Theresa Pierre, president of Parents as First Educators. “I think it’s valuable to introduce children to the political process, but the choice of that kind of involvement has to be in line with church teachings,” said Pierre.
As Catholics vote to elect the next president, and join with all Americans to decide the future direction of the country, many are now keenly aware that religious liberty cannot be taken for granted. Reflection on the right to practice one’s beliefs is likely to cause some to seek greater understanding of their faith as well as a desire to share that faith with others. It is not surprising, then, that Pope Benedict XVI, has declared this year to be the “Year of Faith,” and has invited all Catholics to share in a new evangelization of that faith.