”Fortnight for Freedom” just the beginning

By Dave Andrusko

Sister Mary Ann Walsh

It is the nature of time-specific campaigns that once they are over, it’s easy for the wider public to subconsciously think, “Well, that’s that.”

A piece in HuffingtonPost.com last week, written by the Director of Media Relations, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, makes it clear in the opening two sentences that “The bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom is over, but the concern for religious liberty has only begun to be heard.” These two weeks, which ended symbolically on July 4, “got people listening and praying,” wrote Sister Mary Ann Walsh, but there is much more to come.

Sr. Walsh writes about a constellation of assaults on religious freedom, the common denominator of which is “preventing religious bodies from operating according to their moral standards.” For single-issue pro-lifers that is the mandate, issued by President Obama’s Health and Human Services Department, requiring religious institutions and individuals of conscience pay for health insurance plans that cover medical procedures and drugs contrary to their religious beliefs and conscience.

Just how seriously the Catholic Church takes all the attacks is clear by paragraph three:

“Look in the United States, where freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, and you see a sophisticated type of assault. It is unbloody, but far-reaching. Ironically, the assaults are not from some guerilla group or despot, but from the government. Foreign nations that look to the U.S. to protect their religious freedom have to shudder.”

Overwrought? An exaggeration? That’s how Obama’s supporters respond. At best, defenders of the mandate argue it’s not THAT bad. At worse, they charge the Catholic Church with just wanting to get around rules that properly ought to be applied to any organization.

But the Catholic Church’s response—and that from a number of other religious denominations, alarmed by the mandate—is wholly justified. If any proof were needed of the Obama Administration’s real motivation, it came in the phony baloney “accommodation” it made as the first wave of opposition crested. Here’s how Sr. Walsh put it:

Government, in a miserly gesture, says it will grant an exception to entities it defines as religious enough to merit protection of their religious liberty. That means the parish church is religious enough but not the church’s hospitals, schools, colleges, soup kitchens and other social services. You may think the latter obviously are religious works but the government says they are not if you serve needy people other than your co-religionists.”

She immediately adds

“Catholicism calls Catholics to help those in need.”

Not often discussed explicitly is where this mandate come from. It came from a provision in ObamaCare dealing with “preventive health services.”  NRLC warned in 2009 that it would empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate coverage of any medical service, including abortion, merely by adding the service to an expandable list.

And the reason single-issue pro-lifers are also deeply concerned about the mandate is the precedent that is establishing. Were he to win a second-term, Obama could exploit the same statutory authority to mandate that virtually all health plans pay for elective surgical abortion on demand.

Sr. Walsh ends her column with a frank admission and reason to be encouraged:

“The religious freedom campaign has an uphill battle before it, but it is hard to imagine our nation won’t be better for it.”

Your feedback is very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com. If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daveha