Protecting our first freedoms:
Faith, conscience and speech

Voice your values: Legislative action

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U.S. Conf. Catholic Bishops


Conscience Protection Act: 3 Ways to #standwithnurses


November 8, 2017

"Watch our short video about Cathy, a New York City nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion against her deeply-held beliefs. "

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Why is HHS contraception order still standing? Trump said it 'would soon be over'

The Hill commentary by Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo

August 4, 2017

"After meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office on May 4, I sat in the Rose Garden and listened as the president promised the Little Sisters of the Poor that their “long ordeal” with the government’s contraceptive mandate “would soon be over.” Yet here we are, nearly three months later, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate still stands. For four years, the Little Sisters and many other faith-based nonprofit groups have patiently asked the government to do the right thing and let them serve the poor. In a pluralistic society like ours, people should be free to serve the common good without compromising their moral or religious convictions. The HHS mandate, requiring employers to cover contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices, has tested this country’s commitment to a healthy pluralism."

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U.S. bishops launch 2017 Fortnight for Freedom with New Video

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

June 26, 2017

In a new video marking the beginning of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom, the U.S. bishops invited legal, religious, and other personalities to discuss the importance of religious liberty, and to address the struggle between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the HHS mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

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Religious freedom 2.0: An executive order short on orders commentary by Richard Doerflinger

May 10, 2017

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not endorse or oppose candidates. But some have claimed the church should lose its tax-exempt status, citing the bishops' "faithful citizenship" documents and other statements explaining moral issues Catholic voters should consider. Beginning in 1980, such a claim by the group "Abortion Rights Mobilization" tied up the bishops in court for a decade. This order tells the IRS to go after what the Johnson amendment actually forbids, instead of infringing on churches' legitimate freedoms. And that is worthwhile. The executive order does not do what some hoped and others feared, but it does some good. It should be welcomed as a good start, but more is needed.

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USCCB, others oppose HHS gender-bender proposed rule

Official comment

August 12, 2016

The proposed regulations would forbid discrimination on the bases of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." In these comments, we identify and discuss four problems relating to this prohibition. The first concerns the statutory authority under which CMS claims to be promulgating the regulations. The second concerns interpretations of the proposed prohibition that could interfere with a hospital's professional judgment about what procedures or services are ethical, medically appropriate, or in a patient's best interest. The third concerns interpretations of the proposed prohibition that could compromise the health, safety, or privacy of other patients. The fourth concerns the right of religiously affiliated hospitals to carry out their mission free from government coercion to violate their religious beliefs, a right safeguarded, sometimes with reference to particular procedures and sometimes in more general terms, in federal law. Download file 1608 USCCB et al comment CMS gender bender rule.pdf 

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HHS says California can require that all health plans cover elective abortions

Catholic News Service

June 22, 2016

A federal agency has determined that California can continue to demand that all health plans under the jurisdiction of the state's Department of Managed Health Care -- "even those purchased by churches and other religious organizations" -- cover elective abortions for any reason. "It is shocking that HHS has allowed the state of California to force all employers -- even churches -- to fund and facilitate elective abortions in their health insurance plans," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. The cardinal and archbishop wrote a letter in March to House members urging that they vote for the measure, and in April a group of 26 organizations sent a letter to lawmakers stating their support. Besides the USCCB, signers of the letter included the Christian Medical Association and Catholic Medical Association; the National Council of Catholic Women; the March for Life Education and Defense Fund; the National Association of Evangelicals; the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Knights of Columbus; National Right to Life; and several associations of physicians and nurses.

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USCCB, CMA, CLS, ERLC and others protest proposed gender regs

Comments to Civil Rights Center, U.S. Department of Labor

March 24, 2016

The regulations proposed by DOL are objectionable, however, because, without statutory authority and in some respects in direct violation of relevant federal statutes, they-
• define "sex" to include "transgender status" and "gender identity."
• define sex discrimination to include differential treatment on the basis that the individual "identifies with a gender different from that individual's sex assigned at birth."
• define sex discrimination to include differential treatment on the basis that "the individual has undergone, is undergoing, or is planning to undergo, any processes or procedures designed to facilitate the individual's transition to a sex other than the individual's sex assigned at birth."
• define sex discrimination to include "[d]enying individuals access to the bathrooms used by the gender with which they identify."
• fail to recognize or enforce the exceptions to sex discrimination under Title IX, exceptions that are expressly referenced in Section 188 of the WIOA.

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Video: Nurse forced to participate in late-term abortion


November 13, 2015

Cathy Cenzon DeCarlo, RN, was forced by her employer to participate in a late-term abortion against her deeply held pro-life beliefs--a violation of her conscience rights. Watch video.

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Where's the line between a principled workplace and a biased one?

Washington Post commentary by Richard Doerflinger

July 1, 2015

(orig. pub. 6/24/15) The June 18 Metro article "House GOP targets D.C.'s reproductive-bias law" failed to note the law's unprecedented breadth, which led then-D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and his general counsel to warn last year of legal and constitutional defects. The law protects employees who make any decision relating to "the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy." The law protects employees who make any decision relating to "the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy." So pro-life organizations must employ women who plan to have abortions, as well as men who perform abortions or tell colleagues they will encourage women to have them.

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Catholic and Evangelical Humanitarian Agencies Voice Concern Over Impact of Rule Regarding Unaccompanied Children

US Conf. Catholic Bishops

February 23, 2015

An interim final rule published by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services risks harmful effects on unaccompanied children resettled by the United States, according to comments filed by Catholic and Evangelical organizations and relief agencies. The rule falls short of having adequate protections for those organizations with religious or moral objections to certain requirements under the rule, including providing minors and victims of sexual abuse access to "emergency contraception" and access "to all lawful pregnancy-related medical services," which the comments indicated "apparently includes abortion."

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Religious freedom battle daunting. but bishops urged to persist

Catholic News Agency

November 12, 2014

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.

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Hobby Lobby and Conestoga: A Victory for Religious Freedom

Washington Insider commentary by Richard Doerflinger

July 22, 2014

The Court’s 5-to-4 decision in favor of the religious freedom of these familyowned companies was immediately greeted by a hailstorm of negative, misleading, and ignorant commentary by those who are politically committed to mandatory contraceptive coverage for all Americans. However, what the court did, in fact, was follow its own precedents and faithfully apply a law passed almost unanimously by the people’s elected representatives. That law is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was approved by the 103rd Congress almost unanimously in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. RFRA says that a federal policy cannot “substantially burden” a person’s religious freedom unless it furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the way that is “least restrictive” of that freedom.

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USCCB chairmen respond to unprecedented and extreme executive order

USCCB news release

July 21, 2014

The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama's July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" discrimination and to forbid "gender identity" discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.

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Senate bill would strip conscience protections, bishops warn

Catholic News Agency

July 15, 2014

“We are writing to state our strong opposition to the misnamed ‘Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014’ (S. 2578),” wrote Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston in a letter to all U.S. senators on Monday. "In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question," the bishops wrote. The proposed legislation would force employers with group health plans to cover any "specific health care item" mandated by federal law or regulations despite religious liberty protections.

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The HHS Mandate, Unborn Life, and the Professionals

Public Discourse commentary by Richard Doerflinger

June 25, 2014

"Were you lying then, or are you lying now?" So asks an outraged defense lawyer in the great courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, when his star murder witness reverses her testimony. In light of recent events, some may want to ask the same question of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

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Discrimination order sparks fears over religious liberty

Catholic News Agency

June 24, 2014

A group of U.S. Catholic bishops issued a statement noting "great concern" over "the reported intention of the President of the United States to issue an executive order forbidding what the Administration considers ‘discrimination' based on ‘sexual orientation' and ‘gender identity.' If signed into action, the executive order could require organizations with federal contracts to treat same-sex partnerships as marriages, unless wide religious freedom exemptions are granted.

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Catholic group exempt from contraceptives rule

Washington Post

June 5, 2014

President of the Catholic Benefits Association Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, said the group was formed to support Catholic employers in providing quality, cost-competitive and morally compliant health care benefits for their employees. "Yesterday's decision makes this a reality," Lori said. The owners of the Hobby Lobby won a favorable ruling in a similar lawsuit in the same federal court and at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The chain of arts-and-crafts stores does not want to provide insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception that it finds objectionable on religious grounds.

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US bishops unanimously reaffirm opposition to HHS mandate

Catholic News Agency

November 14, 2013

They identified three ongoing concerns surrounding the mandate: a reduction of religious freedom to mere freedom of worship; the compulsion of Catholic ministries to participate in the providing of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception; and the compulsion of Catholics owning for-profit businesses to act against Catholic teaching. Kim Daniels, spokesperson for the president of the bishops’ conference, said the statement shows that the bishops remain united and are not letting up on their efforts to secure religious freedom.

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US bishops: employment bill is wrong solution to discrimination

Catholic News Agency

November 5, 2013

A bill to prohibit workplace discrimination against homosexual and transgender persons poses serious threats to religious freedom and undermines the biological basis of gender, say its critics as it heads to a crucial Senate vote.  “All Americans should oppose unjust discrimination, but ENDA does not advance that goal. In fact, it moves us in the wrong direction,” said scholar and author Ryan T. Anderson. The bishops explained that as it is currently written, the proposed law lacks an exception for a "bona fide occupational qualification" for "those cases where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant's sexual inclinations."

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USCCB president: CHA support of health care rules 'less than helpful'

Catholic News Service

September 11, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services June 28 issued final rules for implementing the mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. The USCCB maintains that the rules still conflict with church teaching. Cardinal Dolan said the conference continues to evaluate what next steps it will take in response.

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Religious leaders push for ObamaCare contraception mandate exemptions

Fox News

July 3, 2013

Leaders of religious groups representing more than 100 million Americans said Tuesday that religious institutions and business owners should not be forced to provide contraceptive coverage that violates their conscience. Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists' public policy arm, said Tuesday that the administration's finalized rule on the mandate amounted to "word games and accounting tricks," with no exemptions for religious business owners.

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HHS Final Rule Still Requires Action In Congress, By Courts, Says Cardinal Dolan


July 3, 2013

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' final rule on its mandate that requires employee health insurance for contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs, and female sterilization does not appear, on first analysis, to eliminate "the need to continue defending our rights in Congress and the courts," Cardinal Timothy Dolan ofNew York said July 3.

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Christians are the most persecuted creed worldwide

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in NY Daily News

June 28, 2013

According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, 75% of the world's population lives in countries with high governmental or societal restrictions on religion. Christians face harassment in the largest number of countries, followed by Muslims and Jews. This is not only terrible for believers, it's unhealthy for societies. Brian Grim at the Pew Forum notes that "restriction of religious freedom correlates with diminished wellbeing and violent social conflict."

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Marriage Redefinition and Religious Freedom

Kim Daniels in National Review Online

June 21, 2013

Religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, and social-service ministries that continue to live by their beliefs about marriage could face anti-discrimination lawsuits, and their access to government contracts and benefits could be at risk. It's not far-fetched to think that such groups may face the loss of tax-exempt status; the California Senate has passed a bill that would take away the Boy Scouts' tax-exempt status in reaction to what it sees as the Scouts' discriminatory membership policy.

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Do You Have a Saturday Night to Spare for Freedom?

KJ Lopez in National Review Online

June 21, 2013

This weekend marks the beginning of the second Fortnight for Freedom, an ecumenical celebration of freedom established last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This year's events begin tonight with an opening Mass in Baltimore and a vigil for freedom Saturday evening in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Jacqueline Halbig of The Catholic Association has been working with the Knights of Columbus organizing a prayer vigil and Saturday night's rally. She talks a bit about it with National Review Online.

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US bishops name religious freedom advocate as spokeswoman


April 30, 2013

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has hired religious liberty attorney and mother of six Kim Daniels as spokesperson for conference president Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. The bishops' conference said April 29 that it "welcomes" Daniels, who brings with her experience as director of Catholic Voices USA, a lay Catholic organization that "works to bring the positive message of the Church across a broad range of issues to the public square."

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President Obama’s Dangerous Precedent

National Catholic Register editorial

April 21, 2013

Tens of thousands of citizens, including Catholic bishops, administrators of universities, hospitals and social agencies, private business owners, constitutional scholars and ordinary laypeople, flooded the online comments box. Some statements offered legal analyses that explained why the mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pro-life business owners affirmed their commitment to the sanctity of human life. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a March 20 statement filed by Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses rejected the narrow religious exemption that offers no protection for Catholic "organizations that contribute most visibly to the common good through the provision of health, educational and social services."

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USCCB Says Administration Mandate Violates First Amendment Freedoms Of Religious Organizations And Others


March 20, 2013

No exemption or accommodation is available at all for the vast majority of individual or institutional stakeholders with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. Virtually all Americans who enroll in a health plan will ultimately be required to have contraceptive coverage for themselves and their dependents, whether they want it or not. 

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How to reduce abortions

Richard M. Doerflinger in The Washington Post

February 21, 2013

Assuming we don't want to focus on compromising the autonomy and dignity of women to achieve a sterile population, what approaches with wide popular support could reduce abortion, even as it remains legal under the Supreme Court's decisions?

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Effort to Secure Conscience Rights in HHS Mandate Fight

Catholic Examiner

July 29, 2012

Richard Doerflinger, the chief lobbyist on life issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, described the House Subcommittee appropriations bill as a "breakthrough" because the language from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act is included right in the spending bill and not in an amendment. "The real challenge will be for the Senate to accept it." he said. "One way or the other, there will be a vote."

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Religious freedom and conscience rights in America

Richard Doerflinger interview on Christian Doctors Digest

July 13, 2012

Christian Medical Association CEO Dr. David Stevens interviews Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate in the Affordable Care Act, conscience rights and religious liberty.

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Modern-day slaves, hostage to abortion

NY Daily News commentary by S. Wagner and K. Daniels

June 24, 2012

In May 2011, the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided its human trafficking grant-making process would prioritize those who would provide “family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.” Translation: Unless you offer abortion and contraception, you’re not welcome.


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Catholic bishops strike back

Washington Times commentary by Cathy Ruse

May 23, 2012

In January, the Obama administration hit Catholic employers with arguably the most religiously-oppressive government directive in modern American history: Provide free abortion drugs and birth control pills in your health insurance plans, in flagrant violation of your religious beliefs, or face legal punishment. This week the bishops of the Catholic Church hit back. In one of the largest legal actions to defend religious liberty in U.S. history, Catholic organizations filed a dozen lawsuits across the country claiming the Obama Health and Human Services Department rule violates the right to religious freedom set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

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Catholic dioceses, colleges sue over Obama mandate

Washington Examiner

May 21, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Dozens of Roman Catholic dioceses, schools and other institutions sued the Obama administration Monday over a government mandate requiring most employers to provide birth control coverage as part of their employee health plans. 


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Catholics nationwide preparing 'Fortnight for Freedom' events

Catholic News Agency

May 20, 2012

Various initiatives are planned throughout the country in response to the U.S. bishops' call for a "Fortnight for Freedom" June 21-July 4 to encourage prayer, education and public action about religious freedom. The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church's religious freedom.

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Is Conscience Partisan?

Public Discourse commentary by Richard Doerflinger

April 15, 2012

During his final illness Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, stating, "I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I'll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone."

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No mandate exemption for religious groups

Washington Times commentary by Richard Doerflinger

March 7, 2012

The Washington Times persists in reporting that the Obama administration has "agreed to exempt religion-affiliated universities, charities and hospitals" from its contraceptive coverage mandate ("Limbaugh apology garners bipartisan approval," Web, Sunday). However, this is not the case. On Feb. 10, the administration's controversial mandate and its incredibly narrow religious exemption were finalized "without change."

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