Although Times Square is home to many provocative images, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is upping the ante with its patriotic red-white-and-blue billboard placed this week on Times Square saying: “Quit the Church. Put Women’s Rights Over Bishops Wrongs.”
The message is in direct response to the Catholic Bishops’ war on contraception. Archdiocese of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has orchestrated the negative Catholic PR blitz and federal lawsuits against the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive insurance mandate.
FFRF’s 20 x 60 foot billboard on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue is aimed at Roman Catholics who disagree with what FFRF calls the Church’s “anti-woman, anti-contraception, antediluvian” teaching that contraception is a “sin.”
“Respecting the separation between church and state, allowing women uniform access to contraceptive coverage, does not ‘discriminate’ against the Bishops or the Catholic Church,” says FFRF spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Our secular government may not favor one religion’s doctrine — and a highly unpopular one, at that — at the expense of the rest of us,” she added.
FFRF is “telling truth to power” in a multi-level campaign to counter the Bishops, who, in this election year, have pledged to overturn President Obama’s policy to ensure employee access to preventative care. This includes a provision to take place in August that all FDA-approved contraceptives shall be provided without a co-pay.
The Bishops have cried foul, even though all churches and denominations are expressly excluded from having to comply with the mandate. As a compromise, Obama ruled that non-church religious institutions, such as schools and hospitals, won’t have to personally pay for and provide contraceptive coverage to employees, many of whom are nonCatholic or use contraception. Private insurance companies will be required to pick up those costs, which honors both the rights of employees and religious objections.
“The Catholic Bishops are religious bullies,” Gaylor added. “It’s time to stand up to them, and it’s time for Catholics who disagree with their church’s actions to quit supporting an institution that opposes true religious liberty and oppresses women.”
The bishops announced a “Fortnight of Freedom” campaign beginning Thursday. They are scripting masses and statements to be read from the pulpit by priests — even though 98 percent of Catholic women of childbearing age use contraception at one time or another, and 85 percent of Catholic women use birth control regularly. Bishops are ordering Catholics to lobby Congress to pass a draconian church-introduced bill that would let any employer deny health care coverage for any procedure the employer claims to have a religious objection to.
“Most Americans are not Catholic, yet the Catholic Church wants our civil laws to bend to the will of one church,” noted FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
On Thursday, FFRF will start airing an ad recorded by former Catholic Julia Sweeney, actress and playwright of “Letting Go of God.” The 30-second spots will play over thousands of TV stations in the next two weeks. FFRF has placed similar billboards where dioceses are suing HHS over the mandate, including St. Louis, Joliet, Ill., and Dallas-Fort Worth.