Knights of Columbus Head Says there is “a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways”

By Dave Andrusko

Carl Anderson, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the Knights of Columbus.

Although it is all faith traditions that Obama’s mandate has in its cross-hairs, it is the Catholic Church which has been most vocal in warning about  the threat to religious liberties posed by the requirement that all religious institutions–universities, hospitals, and charities–pay for health insurance that covers sterilization and contraception. Here are a few recent examples of how the Catholic Church and major Catholic lay organizations are providing a model for everyone and anyone committed to protecting First Amendment Liberties.

NRL News Today has extensively covered “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” a twelve-page document in which The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a call to action to defend religious liberty and urged laity to work to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights. Developed by the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” calls  for “A Fortnight for Freedom,” the two-week period from June 21 to July 4, to focus “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” for religious liberty. “This is not a Catholic issue,” the document declares unequivocally. It is an American issue.”

Speaking at the 8th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast last week, Carl Anderson, chairman of Knights of Columbus, told more than 800 Christians that “Never in the lifetime of any of us here present has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today.”  Anderson cited several instances of what he described as “a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways.” There is, of course, the Obama mandate, but Anderson also cited the decision last year by the Department of Health and Human Services that denied renewed funding of the Catholic Church’s work with victims of human trafficking.  He explained

“The Conference of Catholic Bishops had successfully administered the program for five years, but after the ACLU filed suit demanding that the program refer women for abortions and contraception, HHS restructured the program.  As a result, highly qualified providers such as the Catholic Church are now barred from the program because they cannot, in good conscience, provide what HHS calls the ’full range’ of reproductive services—namely abortion and contraception. Once again the Administration’s logic is consistent: faith-based groups may apply only if their ‘faith and mission’ are acceptable to the government.”

Anderson told CBN News that the Obama Administration is trying to force believers to tolerate what they once wouldn’t.  “When you have a government that’s willing to do that, you have a government that’s willing to manipulate and change the identity of churches,” he warned.  “And that’s exactly what the First Amendment was designed to prevent.”

“Last year, the Secretary of Health and Human Services [Kathleen Sebelius] told a NARAL luncheon, ‘We are in a war,’” Anderson said. “We do not need a government that sees itself at ‘war’ with its own citizens.”

Anderson also highlighted where the thinking behind this mandate could go next.

He said, “The National Right to Life Committee makes a compelling case that the Obama Administration’s ‘accommodation’ for the HHS mandate – if accepted – paves the way for mandated coverage of ‘abortion on demand.’”

With 1.8 million members, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization.

In a 50-minute interview today  with [Florida] Sun Sentinel reporters and editorial writers,  Archbishop Thomas Wenski, the Roman Catholic leader for South Florida,  said,  “There is a blind spot in the administration and a kind of unique understanding of constitutional issues of church and state that is not shared by the mainstream of this country.” Referring to the supposed White House “compromise,” Archbishop Wenski said

“The White House has stonewalled them [the Bishops] and nothing is going to happen. They told a couple of bishops that they should listen to some of the nuns,” he said. “Talk about the blind spot of the administration. It continues in their lack of responsiveness to our concerns. And when they do sit down and meet with us they seem to be without a clue often.”

If you read the “mainstream press,” you will be told this is having no effect, or, if it is, the mandate is redounding to the benefit of the Obama Administration. This misses several facts, including, as Anderson pointed out in his speech several times, that while  the mandate is among the “most egregious assaults on religious liberties,” it is not the only one.

And the President has experienced serious slippage among both White Catholics and White Evangelicals.  As NRL News Today reported last week,

a poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed that pro-life former Gov. Mitt Romney has a huge lead among white evangelicals and white Roman Catholics.

In the last month Obama has lost 5% among Protestants in general and 8% among all Catholics. “Romney now possesses a particularly large lead over Obama among white evangelicals (73 to 20 percent) and white Catholics (57 to 37 percent),” according to reporter Daniel Burke. By contrast, “Religiously unaffiliated Americans largely support Obama (67 to 26 percent).” (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/04/romney-enjoys-huge-lead-among-white-evangelicals-and-catholics.)

We will keep you abreast of the latest developments, which are occurring on almost daily basis.

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