March 16th, 2012
06:38 PM ET
By Jessica Yellin, CNN
(CNN)–An influential Christian leader is calling for the evangelical community to match the Catholic church's efforts mobilizing against the Obama administration's policy on contraception coverage.
"I'm asking evangelical churches to get as involved as the Catholic church has," said Chuck Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship and the Christian radio broadcast Breakpoint. "Catechize members. If it's from the pulpit, that's fine. If by pastoral letter, that's fine. If by announcements at Bible studies, that's fine. The church in America is a sleeping giant. On an issue like this, it will be aroused."
Colson e-mailed more than 500,000 people of faith Thursday afternoon and called the contraception policy "the greatest threat to religious liberty in the history of this country."
The e-mail added, "We evangelicals need to take a page from the Roman Catholics. ... It would be difficult for a Catholic attending mass to avoid reading or hearing about this battle. ... I don't want to impugn anyone's motives, but the New York Times reported last week that the Obama administration is preparing a major campaign. It has programmed one million letters to influential women across America, energizing them over this issue."
The letter urges followers to frame this as a debate about religious freedom, not contraception, because it's a more effective way to sway public opinion.
Colson concludes, "Brothers and sisters, let me tell you bluntly that if we don't win this battle, we lose not only religious freedom, but every freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. When freedom of conscience is lost, history teaches that the rest follow quickly. So let's all join together. Contact your constituents and supporters. Why shouldn't every evangelical leader do what the Catholics are doing—start circulating to our own mailing lists explaining why this issue is NOT about contraceptives; it is about religious freedom. It's unprecedented. We must not stand idly by while our most precious freedom is imperiled."
In the coming weeks, Colson and other evangelical activists will participate in events designed to educate supporters to write letters to their members of Congress, attend rallies or support lawsuits on the policy.
Speaking to CNN, Colson invoked the Manhattan Declaration, an interfaith statement of unity defending pro-life and traditional marriage positions. "The 525,000 people who signed the Manhattan Declaration said we'll render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar but not what belongs to God."
He added, "We're headed for the biggest constitutional clash between government and church in my lifetime, and it will hurt us both, and we cannot do that."
Colson spoke the same day the Obama administration released updated rules to its contraception policy. The update effectively restates the administration's position that women who work for religious institutions with moral objections to contraception can get birth-control pills and other reproductive health care directly though their insurers.
The policy also begins a process of public comment for religious institutions that fund their own insurance plans.
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