By Becky Perlow, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a two-week crusade against what it calls the federal government's violations of its religious liberty.
The campaign, known as the Fortnight for Freedom, is about “prayer, education and action,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, in an interview Sunday with CNN.
The campaign, to conclude on Independence Day, has drawn support from Catholic parishioners across the nation, who have held religious rallies, prayer vigils and weekly mass to raise awareness for a new health care mandate the church opposes.
“We’re here to pray. We’re here to educate about freedom. We started this campaign to say religious liberty is eroding,” said Wuerl before a rally Sunday afternoon at George Washington University in Washington.
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According to the Catholic bishops' website, the days leading up to July Fourth will “celebrate a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power,” including Sir Thomas More, John the Baptist and Saints Peter and Paul.
In recent months, the U.S. Catholic Church has expressed concern over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' proposed contraception mandate, which requires insurance companies for Catholic-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities to provide free contraceptive coverage – including, the church says, sterilizations and drugs that could cause abortions – to employees, in violation of Catholic teachings on social issues.
The White House has pushed back against accusations it is curtailing religious liberty. The administration is proposing an exemption for the mandate for churches, but the plan recently lost support from the Catholic Health Association, once the administration's most powerful Catholic ally on the mandate.
Wuerl said the church campaign is not about politics or the controversial mandate. Instead, he said it’s about the government’s attempt to infringe on religious liberty.
John Paul Beller, 14, prays alongside Nicky Morrison, 17, at Sunday's rally.
In an online letter last month to congregants, Wuerl said the scope of the mandate's exception is so narrow that not even Mother Teresa would have qualified.
“The First Amendment enshrines in our nation's Constitution the principle that religious organizations must be able to practice their faith free from government interference,” he said in a letter posted on the Diocese of Washington’s website.
He added, “To be clear, that is the message that the HHS mandate conveys: our beliefs are not welcome.”
Joseph Palacios, director of the Catholics for Equality Foundation, said the church can't play the victimhood card because it receives substantial funds from federal and state governments.
“If the bishops want exemption from the law,” said Palacios in a recent statement, “then they should stop receiving taxpayer funding."
Wuerl, however, insists the money is not a gift – rather, it is an exchange of services between the Catholic Church and the federal government, so there should be no strings attached.
“The government comes to us and says, ‘We would like you to (care) for the homeless (and run) a shelter,’ ” Wuerl said.
“(But) we’re not living off the dole – we’re being paid for something we do," Wuerl said. "But this new mandate goes far beyond that. We don’t get money for our schools. We don’t get money for most of the things that go on in our social service ministries and parishes. We don’t get money for a lot of what we, as Catholic churches, do.”
Wuerl said the church can’t do these good works so long as the contraception mandate includes exemptions only for churches, as opposed to all religiously affiliated institutions.
A woman prays with her rosary at the event in Washington.
For the remainder of the campaign, dioceses across the country will focus on what speaks to their individual community members most, said Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations for the Archdiocese of Washington.
The Diocese of Austin, Texas, for example, has encouraged all Catholics to pray with their rosary beads for the two-week period, while the Diocese of Las Vegas has posted a fill-in-the-blank letter on its website in the hope that parishioners will share their displeasure about the mandate with their U.S. representatives.
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At the Sunday rally, Wuerl stood before a crowd of nearly 2,000, according to a diocese estimate, encouraging audience members that although there was a time to be on their knees – namely, “in the presence of the Lord" – this was not one of them.
Wuerl said it was a time for Catholics to stand up for who they are.
“Today we’re simply reminded as we look back over our history and we look back over our freedom, that there are some things worth standing for,” he told the audience inside George Washington University’s Charles E. Smith Center.
“There’s some things worth getting up for, and religious liberty is one of them," he said. "My brothers and sisters, we simply need to stand.”
This is like forcing the muslims to provide pork in the church, or jews to have non-kosher food or hindoos to have beef. what a travesty on the catholics. choice indeed. bah!
"Hindoos"? What are you, retarded?
other than picking on my spelling, any comment on the substance of the remark?
Prayer changes things
Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!
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"The bishops no longer represent Catholics in the pews on so many social issues, from contraception to legal equality for LGBT people," said Joseph Palacios, Director of the Catholics for Equality Foundation. "We also reject the bishops' election year campaign that they are now somehow victims of religious liberty, especially as the U.S. Catholic Church receives 62% of its funding for Catholic Charities from federal and state funds - money coming from the taxes of all Americans. Catholics Charities in Washington, DC, receives 68% of its funding from taxpayers. This does not include taxpayer vouchers for Catholic schools and other support for Catholic health care programs. If the bishops want exemption from the law, then they should stop receiving taxpayer funding."
Jesus didn't represent the view of the masses either. Gee who was right there?
The Militant and Trumphant Churd need the freedom for its priests, cards to act as they PLEASE without FEAR of prosecution. ;-)
"The Catholic se-x abuse cases are a series of convictions, trials and ongoing investigations into allegations of s-ex crimes committed by Catholic priests and members of Roman Catholic orders. These cases began receiving public attention beginning in the mid-1980s with new cases still being brought forward. There have been criminal prosecutions of the abusers and sometimes of the Church hierarchy which protected them, and civil lawsuits against the church's dioceses and parishes."
This should be re-named "restore the power, influence, & special accommodations we had 1000 years ago" campaign .
if you want religious freedom, start paying taxes like other social organizations.
John, In AMerica religous liberty has never been associated with whether or not one pays taxes or not. So only those who pay taxes have rights? dumb.
This has got to be the only time I have ever agreed with gerald on anything. I hate gerald, but you don't know shlt about our First Amendment. We all get those rights regardless of whether we pay taxes or not.
You sound like those divorced dads who think that just because they pay child support that this equates to some sort of visitation fee and that they are guaranteed whatever visitation they want just because they pay the child support.
Child support doesn't work that way. It's like taxes.
It has absolutely nothing to do with your rights whether you pay money or not.
I may have to wash myself all over for agreeing with that disgusting puke of a human being named gerald.
Fuck you for being so wrong that even someone like gerald could be right and you wrong. Dumb-ass!
"Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia."
The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire? Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those who want contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.
There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is and therefore all non-profits should file Form 990's. At the moment, religious groups are exempt. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits.
"The government must stay out of hiring and firing decisions by a religious organization, even if a minister sues for employment discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
Religious freedom groups praised the decision, and especially the fact that it came from a unanimous court."
Seems to me that the Church is doing the infringing; The Church is telling a company (not Church owned company) what services to offer based on Church Doctrine. I think by any interpretation the Church is trying to enforce it's will not the Federal Government.
If someone reached into your pocket and grabbed money to pay for a woman's cosmetics – er – constraceptives, who's being infringed upon? You or the pickpocket?
What a horrible comparison.
Prime, that's just as dumb now as it was yesterday.
Just so they keep forbidding liberal nuns from trying to foist socialist liberal policies on WE, THE PEOPLE.
Yeah...foisting help on the needy...that's so radical, man...
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.