Roman Catholic leaders are calling for two weeks of public protests against President Barack Obama’s policies as they intensify their argument that the administration is engaged in a war on religion.
The days between June 21 and July 4 have been set aside by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which has sought to end the administration’s contraception mandate, among other policies.
The protests against the Obama administration’s policies could be “the game-changer” in the presidential election, one leading lay churchman told Newsmax on Tuesday.
The protests, dubbed “A Fortnight for Freedom” will be an “unprecedented, aggressive attack” against policies that church leaders see as an assault on religious freedom, said Catholic Advocate chairman Deal Hudson.
Religious leaders told a House panel the Obama administration was violating basic rights to religious freedom with its policies for requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to birth control coverage. (Feb. 16)
Titled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” the 12-page statement by the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty also calls for “a fortnight for freedom” from June 21, the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, U.S. Independence Day.
“This special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” the committee said. “Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”
Made public April 12, the document was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee during its March meeting for publication as a committee statement.
Among other examples of “religious liberty under attack” the bishops named:
— Immigration laws in Alabama and other states that “forbid what the government deems ‘harboring’ of undocumented immigrants — and what the church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to those immigrants.”
— An attempt by the Connecticut Legislature in 2009 to restructure Catholic parishes.
— Discrimination against Christian students on college campuses.
— Government actions in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Illinois that have “driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services” because the agencies would not place children with same-sex or unmarried heterosexual couples.
— A New York City rule that bars small church congregations from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, while allowing such rentals by nonreligious groups.
— Changes in federal contracts for human trafficking grants that require Catholic agencies “to refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching.”
The statement quotes the Founding Fathers and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to bolster its arguments.
Rev. King, writing from jail in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, described an unjust law as one “that is out of harmony with the moral law,” and said he agreed with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
The bishops assigned special responsibility for advancing religious freedom to several groups:
— Those who hold public office must “protect and defend those fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights,” regardless of their political party.
— Leaders of Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies “who may be forced to choose between the good works we do by faith, and fidelity to that faith itself” were encouraged to “hold firm, to stand fast and to insist upon what belongs to you by right as Catholics and Americans.”
— Priests must offer “a catechesis on religious liberty suited to the souls in your care,” a responsibility that is shared with “writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers and bloggers employing all the means of communications.”