Prayer-Soldier writes "
OPINION: On 3 Dec 2013, FOCUS VP of Training and Formation, John Zimmer posted an explanation as to why his student organization, Fellowship of Catholic University Students, was suing the United States government over the Health and Human Services Mandate. In an article titled, “'Our Sacred Honor': Why FOCUS Is Suing the U.S. Government,” Zimmer stated, “Under the demands of the HHS contraceptive mandate, our organization would be forced to violate our most sincere religious convictions and to participate in actions that, we believe, are gravely immoral.” Zimmer continued, “If we resist these demands, we face exorbitant fines that would severely cripple, if not destroy, our organization and its missionary activities.”
According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, there are currently 87 cases which challenge the Constitutionality of the HHS Mandate. Of those, 45 of the cases involve for profit organizations and 42 involve non-profits such as FOCUS. The concern of these organizations is that they are being asked to pay for drugs or procedures which are contrary to their established religious beliefs. They argue that the First Amendment protects the free exercise of their religious beliefs and that they should not be forced to pay for, and subsequently encouraging what they believe to be the immoral choices of others.
FOCUS points out that they, “...are NOT attempting to prevent anyone from choosing to use contraceptives.” The issue is whether the government has the right to force someone to pay for and subsequently support behavior which is contrary to their moral religious convictions.
According to a USA Today article published 7 Dec 2013, not all Catholic students are against the HHS Mandate. The article states, “some Catholics argue that the lawsuits represent a small, conservative faction of Catholics. USA Today quotes Meghan Smith, an associate at Catholics for Choice, who states, "These lawsuits don't actually reflect what Catholics want to see for our insurance coverage." Smith continues, "Institutions don't have religious liberty rights; individuals do. It's about the religious liberty of the students, faculty, and staff, who deserve to have their religious freedom respected and their individual consciences respected."
The political narrative contained in such talking points as those of Smith's is that Catholics do not believe in their own faith or the doctrines of that faith which includes the respect of human life from conception to natural death and that abortion and abortifacient drugs are contrary to such religious tenants. Of course, the “small, conservative faction of Catholics” to which the USA Today article refers happens to be the religious institution known as the Catholic Church which embodies a moral belief system as reflected in biblical scripture and church doctrine as it interprets the meaning of that scripture. The argument appears to be that if members of the institution prefer the political narrative over that of the religious beliefs of their faith, then, the political narrative should prevail at the hand of government.
The students and their organizations reflect the divisions which exist across the country and represents the conflict between the ideology of some with the religious convictions of others. The issue is not just about the beliefs of Catholics, but those of other Christian and non-Christian faiths as well. The founders of our nation sought to protect the freedom of the people from the conflicts of political ideology and religious conviction. The question is not what ideology or faith is right or wrong, but whether the government has the authority to dictate ideological behavior contrary to the free exercise of religious beliefs. While some may be seduced by what they believe to be a cheap subsidy of their sexual behavior, but there are consequences when we allow anyone to chip away at the freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...” The statement prohibits government from either establishing a state religion or infringing upon the freedom of the people to live according to their religion. Some will say this right is not extended to institutions outside of established churches, but institutions, depending upon the values they promote, may still represent the religious values of the people who make up the institution. The free exercise of religious belief is not forfeited simply because someone is a member of a for profit or non-profit enterprise. If their religious conviction is not consistent with such an institution, then, they have the right to move on just as they have the right to leave a church with which they do not agree. Neither should government have the power to force behavior contrary to the religious beliefs of the members an institution represents. To do so would infringe upon the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.
An important check upon the legislative and executive branches of government, who may conspire in the abuse of power, is the judicial branch. It stands as an important line of defense to ensure the freedoms of the people are not infringed. Unfortunately, we have many examples whereby the Supreme Court has failed to live up to that responsibility and instead have represented agendas of the day. People wedded to legal parsing will twist words and ideologies to achieve their agendas, but those of moral conscience will stand for their moral convictions.
Zimmer points out another consequence of history. They state, “Ours is a faith that stands upon an endless line of saints and martyrs, many of whom were taxed, tortured, and killed under governments and regimes that denied them freedom of religion. Among these martyrs are Thomas More, Edmund Campion, Charles Lwanga, Paul Miki, Miguel Pro, Jerzy Popiełuszko, Cecilia of Rome, Catherine of Alexandria, and Perpetua and Felicity of Carthage, to name only a few. Through their prayers and yours, we hope that our constitutional rights will be restored, and that the U.S. Department of Justice will uphold and be true to its name.”
The challenge and stakes for the people are not trivial. It matters not what denomination of faith faces persecution, if the people allow their government to take an inch of their freedom for whatever political or ideological purpose, the excuses will come forth where political entities will seek more and more until the people wake up one day and find their freedom gone.
Cited Articles and Posts:
FOCUS (3 Dec 2013)
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (Not Dated)
USA Today (7 Dec 2013)
USCCB (14 Mar 2012)
USCCB (13 Nov 2013)"