By John Norton - OSV Newsweekly, 6/3/2012
In the days before the filing of our religious freedom lawsuit, I read through the draft of our 68-page legal complaint probably half a dozen times.
Each time, I was amazed at how fired up I got at the injustice and fundamental “un-Americanness” of the Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate that is the subject of the lawsuit. (I urge you to read the entire filing. Despite the occasional legalese, it is compelling reading and will give you a leg up in any intelligent discussion of the issue: http://osv.cm/KckQUs.)
I realize that’s precisely the point of the filing — to make the case clearly and powerfully, mustering a full range of supporting arguments from the Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other sources.
But reading it makes you wonder how anyone with a grade-school social studies education and a basic appreciation for our founding principles of freedom of conscience and religion could possibly support the mandate and what it does: give the government unprecedented control over the definition of churches’ purpose, mission and ministries, severely limiting the acceptable role of religion in the public square to worship and activities in what amounts to a ghetto with fellow believers isolated from the rest of society. It also requires religious organizations to apply to government bureaucrats and submit to invasive investigations to receive official approval as religious bodies — under a definition far tighter than any other religious definition in the Constitution and federal law.
“The exemption given to the Church is so strangling and so narrow and it’s also presumptuous that a bureau of the federal government is attempting to define for the Church the extent of its ministry and ministers,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York told CBS’s “This Morning” the day after the filing.
“They tell us that if you’re really going to be considered a church, that if you’re going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything that you do, you can serve only Catholics, and you can employ only Catholics,” said Cardinal Dolan. “When did the government get in the business of defining for us the extent of our ministry?
“It’s almost like we’re being punished for the fact that we serve a lot of people,” he said.
Our Sunday Visitor’s participation in this lawsuit stems very much from the DNA of our company and its founder, Father John Noll, who in the last century was a leading proponent of the rights and responsibilities of the Catholic Church in the U.S. public square.
I hope you find this issue of OSV Newsweekly informative, and it inspires you feel a renewed sense of patriotism and pride in our Constitution — and in the same moment resolve to stand up for religious liberty.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
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