“The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up,” Archbishop Chaput said in his May 24th column for CatholicPhilly.com.
“Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has drawn very little media attention. Nor should we expect any, any time soon,” he said.
“But the latest IRS ugliness is a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty now.”
Although the IRS controversy initially focused on allegations the agency selectively targeted conservative-leaning “tea party” groups with burdensome demands, more incidents against other groups and individuals have been brought to light.
Anne Hendershott, a Catholic professor and writer, has said her Internal Revenue Service audit focused on her writings critical of President Obama and the 2010 health care legislation. She said the audit discouraged her from criticizing the president.
The IRS asked pro-life groups to provide large amounts of paperwork. The agency asked the groups to promise not to protest Planned parenthood or to say whether they planned to educate the public about both sides of the abortion issue. An IRS employee in 2012 allegedly leaked a confidential donor’s list from the National Organization for Marriage to the Human Rights Campaign, a backer of “gay marriage” whose president was named national co-chair of the Obama campaign.
Archbishop Chaput said the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services similarly pressures religious groups.
Although the Catholic bishops have long supported access to adequate health care coverage, he said, “health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.”
He said the Obama administration, despite “a few small concessions,” refuses to withdraw or “reasonably modify” the mandate requiring insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Archbishop Chaput said the mandate “violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.”
He said the mandate “can only be understood as a form of coercion.”
“Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States,” the archbishop said. “The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.”
He said that these controversies show that the debate on issues of sexual morality needs “a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference will hold another Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4. Like last year, it will feature public rallies, prayer vigils and Masses for the defense of religious freedom. (CNA)