After contraception controversy, Catholic Church announces 'religious freedom' campaign
The American Catholic bishops.
April 12th, 2012
05:25 PM ET

After contraception controversy, Catholic Church announces 'religious freedom' campaign

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The Roman Catholic Church announced a major campaign Thursday aimed at bringing attention to what it said were growing threats to religious liberty in the United States, including the pending White House rule requiring health insurance companies to provide free contraceptive coverage to employees of Catholic organizations.

An official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the initiative would stretch out over the course of a few years and that it would include everything from encouraging priests to address religious liberty concerns in church to sending inserts for church bulletins.

“Religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad,” the American bishops said in a new document titled “Our first, most cherished freedom.”

Compared to other Catholic communications campaigns, “This is bigger in that it’s not a one-time thing, not aiming for a specific Sunday” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the communications director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It’s going to be extensive and it’s going to be occurring over a few years.”

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The Catholic bishops say a proposed White House rule connected to the Affordable Care Act requiring health insurers to provide free contraception coverage forces the church to fund an activity it opposes for religious reasons. The White House tweaked an earlier version of the rule that required employers, rather than insurance companies, to pay for contraceptive coverage, mollifying some Catholic groups who objected to Catholic colleges and hospitals having to fund contraception coverage.

But the bishops said the so-called White House compromise didn’t go far enough.

In their Thursday document, the bishops also said that a handful of American states and municipalities have driven Catholic foster care and adoption services out of business because Catholic charities refused to place children with gay couples or unmarried straight couples.

The document also said that the federal government recently revised its contract with the Catholic Church’s Migration and Refugee Services to require it to provide or refer women to contraceptive and abortion services, in violation of Catholic teaching.

“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home,” the bishops said in a Thursday statement. “It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?”

“This is not a Catholic issue,” the statement said. “This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church

soundoff (2,540 Responses)
  1. Cheryl Jefferies

    Question: Why the quotations around the word attack? Obama HAS attacked religion. And, conscience. And, the First Amendment. And, that's what he and the lap-dog media don't want anyone to figure out. Guess what? A powerful lot of us HAVE figured that out. And, we don't like it. And, we're going to fight it.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  2. Marc

    Hey, Religious Leaders,
    Quit fondling our children and you might get some level of respect from me. As it stands now, no.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • We Camilleri

      How disingenuous of you. Yes a very small number of clergy abused their trust but this by no means means should be used to paint the great majority of clergy as corrupt. Should I using your same logic say you shouldn't be trusted with your own kids because many fathers have abused their own children? Of course not!

      April 13, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  3. Jim P.

    The only time the Church prattles on about religious freedom is when it isn't getting its way. Normnally such a concept is anathema to its doctrines.

    Once in power, it is quite firmly *against* freedom of religion except where it compells people to becoem or remain Catholics.

    One of the Popes back around the end of the nineteenth century wrote a marvelous statement on the evils of free choice in religion except when the choice involved becoming Catholic.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  4. ChiliOG

    Birth control isn't provided "free." It's paid for in premiums. And no one is forced to take them. With everything the church does to keep their people under control, one would think they wouldn't have to worry about members going against church law and using birth control. Unless, of course, everyone knows deep down that this particular church law is archaic and stupid.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Squeezebox

      The Church's point is that it should not be provided at all.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  5. menarddr

    How convenient that in a Year of Election they decide to pull this card.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • We Camilleri

      A real pathetic comment!

      April 13, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  6. B4Cons

    As a lifelong Practicing Catholic I wish they would have taken this strong of a stance on the pedafiles.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Hmmmmm


      April 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  7. Nate

    It's not like employees of the church are being forced to take contraceptives. It's just being presented as an option. The priests should simply view it as a test of faith for their employees. I thought religious observation was about genuinely resisting temptation, not putting a black veil over top to hide it.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  8. sheil

    If you are opposed to Abortion you should be for birth control. Also, not all birth control pills are dispense for birth control. They treat hormonal irregularities, and a whole host of the female malidies. Coming from a bunch of Pedifile protectors I would say their argument is pretty stupid. The Catholic Church wants to turn this to political pure and simple. I say take away their tax deductible status and let them do what they want. If they press the issue I am sure more people will walk away from the church when they see how rediculous this papal people really are. They are out of touch with Reality of course unless it is the reality they expect people to blieve in is theirs. What about erectile disfunction drugs. They don't oppose those.... Gotta love um they Speak for GOD....(OR DO THEY?????)

    April 13, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  9. Mark from Middle River

    "Could women’s use of birth control pills increase men’s risk of prostate cancer? A new study in the medical journal BMJ Open suggests there’s a link, finding that countries where more women take oral contraception have higher rates of prostate cancer and prostate cancer deaths.

    It isn’t entirely clear why the use of birth control pills would affect cancer in men, but the authors, Dr. David Margel, a urologist at Princess Margaret Hospital, and Dr. Neil Fleshner, head of urology at the University Health Network, in Toronto, suggest that it may have to do with environmental exposure: estrogen in birth control pills may be released in urine and end up in the water supply."

    Source: http://healthland.time.com/2011/11/15/study-a-curious-link-between-birth-control-pills-and-prostate-cancer

    The crazy thing is that test are now underway and if the link of men's prostate cancer and birth-control is confirmed...... I wonder how many Catholic Clergy will point to it and proudly say that they were right.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  10. Jenn

    State and federal governments have the right to make rules for who they contract for services with, just like any other consumer. If they choose to not affiliate themselves with the Catholic Church, then the Catholic Church needs to learn to get along without them.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Jean

      Will society be better off with the government (CZARS) making decisions for actions of private groups working to give society assistance? The gov't has no moral sense as private groups do.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  11. nigelrus

    Let them pay taxes

    April 13, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  12. Atheist

    Religious freedom is all well and good Cardinals, but that doesn't give the Pope the right to dictate policy to the USA or any other country. Sad that their version of religious freedom includes trying to force oppressive laws onto women and their reproductive rights. Stop trying to impose your religion into politics and maybe people will let you be.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • B4Cons

      Bishops .... not Cardinals.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      The question is then is it really the Pope making policy in the States or is it Churches having the right to cover or not cover what they feel is or is not against their doctrine. The churches, Groups, and even boy scouts and girl scouts are not paid for by our tax dollars and to be truthful, ask yourself this. Does the government have the power to force companies to provide Health Care coverage? That answer is no. Since they can not force a company to offer the "benefit" of Health Care then where do they get the power to say what a company has to cover when it does.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  13. Brad

    Demuth is a loser. Don't feed this scumbag.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  14. Former Catholic

    The Catholic Church claims this is an attack on religion but in reality they just want to dictate to the government which laws they will and will not follow. The religion argument can be used for just about anything, and is a very slippery slope. People are free to practice their religion as they please, but that does not mean forcing it on others. If you want to do business in the United States you have to abide by our laws. If the Catholic Church was so concerned with following its own teaching then it would deal with the corruption in its own ranks (take the log out of its own eye before removing the splinter out another persons eye). They currently have zero credibility in my opinion. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with political games. Then again, does anyone really expect anything different from the biggest group of hypocrites on the planet?

    April 13, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  15. Richard flores

    I don't remember Jesus saying that women should not have the natural right to decide how to use their own body, to make their own health decisions. Who is this church, who are this old men dress in funny cloth, telling the women population that they know what is best for the women of the world. How they should act and think. The role of catholic church in Mexico and South America has a disastrous history and record. YOU can start by giving back all the gold you stole from the Mexican/Indigenous people and that you now have in storage in the Vatican. He might also need to piece together the lives you destroyed during you Christianization campaign in the Western Hemisphere. The catholic church has lost all legitimacy and right to say anything. Pack you bags and go home. Your are not needed or want in this Hemisphere.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  16. mary smith

    ps, That is very humble of you, all the same.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  17. Reality

    Beyond the politics and onto real life:

    The reality of contraception and STD control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":
    1a. (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    1b. (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)
    Followed by:
    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    April 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  18. pritka

    Pretty cynical of the Catholic Church to start a campaign to protect religious liberty when they have tax exempt status and receive tax payer support for their faith based enterprises. Also 6 of 9 supreme court justices are Catholic as well as numerous members of congress and some pretty influential ones at that; Boehner, Pelosi and Biden to name only 3. Will they refuse communion to those folks who do not support their campaign politics? Seems to me that the American taxpayers ought to start a campaign to protect ourselves from the undue political influence of the church and tell them to back off and stay out of poltics or lose their tax exempt status and tax payer funding.

    April 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • mary smith

      Pritka, you're such a goofball.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Mark

      This issue, which is NOT about contraception but on the limits of government authority and about freedom of religion, has provided convenient cover for long-standing prejudice against Catholicism and Catholics.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Lee s

      @mark Prejudice against catholics? Pot this is kettle. You cant cry prejudice when someone calls you out on the TRUTH, for being associated with an organization founded on centuries of lies, deceit, reneges, and blatant abuse. The catholics invented prejudice and the "club" mentality" for religion. You cant even take communion if youre not catholic. Sounds like prejudice to me, if you want to go there at least.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  19. rad666

    I wonder how much the pope collected from the drug cartels when he was in Mexico?

    April 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • mary smith

      None, thank you.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Hamruniz

      Have you been smoking something illegal? It sure sounds like it!

      April 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  20. DrJStrangepork

    What I still don't get... The catholic church is already of paying for contraception. If they have employees that use their pay checks to buy birth control or condom's, then they are already part of the cycle. Why don't they just follow the rules and leave the "sinning" to the sinners? Preventing the execution of free will usurps the premise doesn't it?

    April 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • mary smith

      You still don't get it is right. You probably have never spoken truer words. Congratulations on verifying your stupidity.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • mary smith

      ps, It's very humble of you to do that, just the same.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • *facepalm*

      What I don't get is why this is only an issue now. Many states already have this exact law on the books.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • DrJStrangepork

      @ mary smith... I guess you have issue with understanding consequences of actions. The Catholic church employs people who do not subscribe to the Catholicism. This means they directly fund people who exercise what the Catholic church calls "sin". Would you not consider the church complicit in the execution of sin? If you pay someone to execute an illegal action, you are held accountable too. My point is simple, you cannot draw the line where they are drawing it. You must draw the line at the person's choice. The church will have a bigger problem at being consistent if they don't trust their congregation to stand by the word. They are attempting to control people instead of educating them to be good Catholics.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Hamruniz

      DrJStrangePork, the Church cannot refuse employment to qualified people based on religion: that's illegal. So your argument is bogus!

      April 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • DrJStrangepork

      @ Hamruniz... not the point. This isn't an argument about equal opportunity. The point is that they cannot be consistent with this path. They are saying they should not be forced to include something in an insurance plan (or fund) what they consider to be a sinful practice. I am saying that the church should be used to the funds it distributes going toward the execution of sins and that for them to be consistent in not funding sins is an impossible path to sustain. They should concentrate on their message to people and not trying to exert control over them. They must let people elect to follow them not force them to follow.

      April 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
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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.