Tuesday, July 16, 2013

American bishops morn the loss of privilege.

In a speech to the General Assembly of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop William Lori referred to a range of challenges to the conscience rights in the public square. Archbishop Lori, who is chairman of the USCCB's ad-hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said that the bishops had been viewing, “with growing alarm, the ongoing erosion of religious liberty in our country.” "There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity," Lori said in his first address to the bishops as chairman of the newly formed ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He added, “Aggressive secularism is also a system of belief. In failing to accommodate people of faith and religious institutions, both law and culture are indeed establishing un-religion as the religion of the land and granting it the rights and protections that our Founding Fathers envisioned for citizens who are believers and for their churches and church institutions."

Fairly clear I think:  The privileges given to Christian and Christian institutions are under threat from aggressive secularism because the Church does not have absolute freedom.

But, as Catholics say, the devil is in the details. The so-called American Founding Fathers were protestant and America is an overwhelming Protestant country and a country historically hostile to Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholic bishops want to claim historical privileges that simply do not exist so they portray Christians as one big happy family and "aggressive secularism" is the big scary boogie man.

But what prompted this tantrum? Two recent policy decisions by the Obama administration :
The first was a new requirement that virtually all U.S. employers must include in their health insurance packages the full range of reproductive services legally available under federal law, including abortion, artificial contraception and contraceptive services that the church regards morally as abortions or at least in some cases abortifacient, with no additional charge to their insured. The new HHS requirement includes a narrowly defined religious exemption that would require almost all Catholic church employers either to terminate all health insurance for their employees or to violate church teachings in order to comply with the regulation.
Currently most religious organisations are free to enact health care insurance plans that specify that certain areas of health care coverage are not acceptable to the employer's religious beliefs, notably among Catholic employers, artificial contraceptives and abortions. The new regulation would require changes in those insurance plans to include coverage of abortion and artificial birth control.
The second Obama administration was a recently institute requirement that faith-based social service agencies cannot obtain federal funds to support their services unless they include the full range of reproductive services that federal law allows. That new federal funding requirement led in October to HHS halting its funding of a widely hailed and successful USCCB program fighting human trafficking on grounds that the Migration and Refugee Services program did not provide contraceptive services to the human trafficking victims.

Contraception. I should have known. But why is this framed as Christianity against Secularism when most Christian sects do not object to contraception? The answer is in the question: Most Christian sects do not have any issue with contraception. So the bishops resort to twisting the issue into "un-religious" secularism impinging on a religious liberty which is nothing more than the ability to restrict access to birth control. Boo fucking hoo.
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