The Freedom From Religion Foundation is fighting back against an offensive by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its upcoming “fortnight for freedom.” Like a secular David defending himself against Goliath, FFRF has launched an opening volley against the monolithic church and its war against the contraceptive mandate.
FFRF, a state/church watchdog and the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics, calls the bishops’ crusade a direct assault against civil rights guaranteed by our secular Constitution.
“The Catholic Church’s campaign should sound an alarm. The Bishops do not seek freedom of religion, but the freedom to impose their religion on you,” warns FFRF in its white paper, “A Statement Exposing the Catholic Church’s Attempt to Redefine Religious Liberty,” responding to the bishops’ statement on religious liberty. Far from being the victims of government persecution, it is the bishops who seek to deny religious liberty, FFRF charges in its 12-page rebuttal.
“The bishops are wrapping themselves in the American flag, even using patriotic, Independence Day rhetoric, to camouflage their assault against true religious liberty,” maintains Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “It’s so important to correct the record of their phony claims, and for freethinkers and civil libertarians to take up the cudgels against the bishops’ threat to reproductive liberty and freedom of conscience.”
What has the bishops on the warpath? In August, Health and Human Services will expand preventative care to provide FDA-approved contraceptives without charging women employees a co-pay. The bishops claim their “religious liberty” is jeopardized by this rule, even though they and all churches and denominations are explicitly exempted from providing this benefit to their own employees.
In order to honor the concerns of religious and quasi-religious non-church institutions, such as hospitals or schools, the Obama Administration compromised and let them off the hook too, by ordering private insurance companies to pay for and provide the contraceptive benefit to these employees.
The bishops’ fortnight assault against the contraceptive mandate begins Thursday on the “the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.” FFRF notes the irony of beginning with a celebration of two men who tortured and burned to death people for exercising freedom of conscience. “The Catholic campaign to redefine liberty has the same goal — to bring all Americans in line with Catholic dogma, if not by force, then by force of law.”
FFRF documents the Roman Catholic Church’s history of zero-tolerance for dissent. FFRF dismantles the Bishops’ claim that the civil rights movement was their doing and points out that, “Unlike [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], the Bishops are seeking to disobey a just law. … they are latter-day Governor Wallaces — bigots seeking a legal sanction to discriminate and use the force of civil law to inflict their religious doctrines on non-Catholics. The church does not seek civil rights, it seeks to deny civil rights.”
FFRF offers a point-by-point refutation of the Bishops’ list of so-called “concrete examples,” calling it a litany of exaggerated affronts. For example: The Bishops claim religious discrimination because they are no longer able to receive federal funds to provide healthcare services to victims of sex trafficking. FFRF found that the Bishops were awarded $15.9 million over the past six years, $5.3 million of which the Bishops used to pay “administrative costs,” but refused to provide “abortion services or contraceptive materials” to the victims who “were repeatedly raped and at constant risk of unwanted pregnancies and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.” As a court ruled: “To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others.”
To the Bishops’ question, “Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?,” FFRF responds: “Your faith is not compromised by your good works; your good works are compromised by your faith.”
FFRF members are urged to write letters to the editor exposing the “fortnight of freedom,” to respond to coverage, and help defend against what the Catholic Church is doing in their area to fight the contraceptive mandate. To find out local assaults against the contraceptive mandate at the diocesan level, you can check the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ online listing diocese by diocese of its offensive.
Read FFRF’s entire rebuttal, “A Statement Exposing the Catholic Church’s Attempt to Redefine Religious Liberty,” signed by FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew L. Seidel (principal researcher/author) and FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.