• A coercive contraceptive mandate imposes pro-abortion ideology on all with pro-life views.
• The gutting of the only federal conscience regulation in health care opens the door to discrimination.
• The denial of federal funds to a ministry, just for opposing abortions, threatens care for human trafficking victims.
• The administration's court case to restrict faith-based organizations' hiring rights minimizes religious liberty.
• Firings, discrimination and coercion of life-honoring health care professionals imperil health care access.
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While the relationship between economic and religious freedom is complicated, religious freedom advocates should also champion economic freedom because they both rely upon some of the same foundational principles, several of the speakers argued. There are four major themes in the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom, also known as Dignitatis Humanae, which is Latin for "of the dignity of the human person," noted Jay Richards, assistant research professor in the School of Business and Economics at CUA: Religious freedom should be based upon 1) the fundamental dignity of every human person, 2) freedom of association, 3) the rights of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs, and 4) the God-ordained but limited role of government. A case for economic freedom can also be made based upon those same four principles, Richards argued. The "defenses are more or less the same."
More than 100 legal cases against the HHS mandate are currently open, the archbishop said. "That's keeping us all pretty busy," he admitted. An update to the mandate was recently released and is being studied by the bishops' religious freedom committee. In addition, Archbishop William E. Lori noted the growing threat to religious liberty being posed by "laws redefining marriage." Such laws have led to businesses and religious entities being threatened with fines or closure for seeking to maintain their longstanding beliefs on marriage. Despite the ongoing challenges in the realm of religious freedom, the archbishop called for hope.
Actions and convictions gain power and permanence in the real world only where the capacities for free economic action are well protected. For religion does not live in conscience alone but in its capacities to act in the world, and to work for the coming of the good, the true, the beautiful, and the self-sacrificing assistance to others to transform this real, concrete Earth of ours. So to act, it must have the wherewithal secured above all by certain economic rights: among them, the ownership and use of private property, the right of association, the right to personal economic initiative, and the right to create new sources of wealth and well-being.
Much worse than the stories about Brendan Eich or Phil Robertson are the stories that involve government coercion, government fines and other punitive action. The examples are well known at this point. Consider Christian-run adoption agencies in Massachusetts and Illinois and Washington, D.C., that have been forced out of the adoption space because they wanted to find homes with married moms and dads for the children they were responsible for. They just wanted to run their adoption agency according to their belief that children deserve a mom and a dad-and the state said no.
Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overruled lower court decisions that had struck down state laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The 6th Circuit Court ruled that constitutional amendments passed by popular vote in Michigan (2.7 million votes), Kentucky (1.2 million), Ohio (3.3 million) and Tennessee (1.4 million) do not violate the U.S. Constitution. Citizens remain free to define marriage as a male-female institution. Today's decision helpfully explained why these laws are constitutional, why it is reasonable for citizens to support such laws, and why arguments for court-imposed redefinition of marriage do not succeed. It also sets the stage for marriage to return to the U.S. Supreme Court.
March for Life, the pro-life organization that holds its well-known annual march in Washington, D.C., is challenging the Obama administration's abortion-pill mandate, which forces employers, regardless of their moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy financial penalties through the IRS. "Pro-life organizations must be free to operate according to the beliefs they espouse," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "March for Life was founded to oppose the tragedy of abortion - the very thing the government is forcing the organization to provide through its health insurance plan. The government cannot selectively punish organizations that wish to abide by their beliefs."
In an exclusive interview with Kelsey Harkness of The Daily Signal, former senator Rick Santorum discussed the state of religious liberty in America and the tension between some LGBT activists and those with deeply held religious beliefs. "We need to continue to fight, and in fact to push back the other way," Santorum said. "We've been too silent too long and we need to say, ‘Look, all of these thoughts are proper in the public square.' We need real freedom in this country, not government-dictated adherence to a set of principles."
Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said, “We want to see people at the highest levels saying ‘we get it,’ religious freedom is not just a nice issue, it’s central to our foreign policy and national security policy. We are not totally in the dark in the way our government actually works, but what you need is attention from those at the highest level that think this is important, this is a priority that is crucially in our national interest.”
Two controversial bills—the Human Rights Amendment Act and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act—passed their first reading and vote as part of the D.C. Council Consent Agenda on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The final passage of the bills may seriously violate the religious freedom of Catholic educational institutions in the city. The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (Bill 20-790) would force organizations and employers to provide insurance coverage for elective abortions regardless of religious objection. The Human Rights Amendment Act would roll back an exemption for religiously-affiliated organizations to the 1977 act which prohibited “discrimination based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, familial status and 11 other protected classes.”
Indeed, a form of government respectful of free association, free contracts, free speech, and free exercise of religion should protect citizens' rights to live according to their beliefs about marriage. After all, protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not infringe on anyone's sexual freedoms. No one has a right to have the government force a particular minister to marry them. Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in same-sex ceremonies, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists. They should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood.