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. Bender Armand

    I know I've said this before, but I think it's still valid:

    I often find myself looking at these religious articles, mostly just to see the comments at the bottom. I am Christian, but that doesn't mean that I hate other faiths, races or nationalities. If I expect people to respect my beliefs, then I feel that I need to respect theirs, no matter if it aligns with my beliefs or not. Does this have limitations? I guess so, for example I don't condone organizations such as the KKK, even if they believe they are simply acting according to their faith. In that sense I agree that I am a hypocrite, but perhaps I will not be condemned for such a view, seeing as my thinking follows the human rights idea of "all created equal" and that every man has the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (or property if you follow the original quotation, ha ha!) Back to my main concern: as viciously as religious fanatics attack those who choose to not believe, we find that the self proclaimed atheists bite back in similar kind, both parties creating a battle ground where there is no "victor" and no one can walk away without being hurt or perhaps hurting another human being. One would hope that the true "fruits" or "proofs" of religion would be found in the actions and characters of those who follow. I would also hope that those who follow the guidance of current secular understanding would be judged in a similar fashion: are they decent human beings? In the end, why should a fellow Christian hate me? Am I not a fellow brother, a child of God along with them? Or why should a Jew hate me? Am I not simply a Gentile that is trying to follow the law according to my understanding? And what of Atheists? Am I not just a fellow hairless monkey, trying to survive along with them? As I see it, every human being deserves a measure of respect.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • One one

      Nice words but unfortunately believers generally give no respect to non-believers. Just listen to their ratings on TV every Sunday morning. After all, they worship a god they believe sends non-believers to hell for not believing as they do.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Casey

      I agree. I would point out however... that anyone reading these posts will see an incredible stream of hate and vitriol from the anti Church folks, and not very much hate-speech from the faithful. I'm not sure why this is... but facts are facts. Last night, on this board, I expressed my condolences to an athiest for the lost of his parents, and he promptly called me a F-ing C-word... moron... yada yada yada. He actually started stalking me on here. I mean wow... lets get a grip folks.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • I_get_it

      Casey, Yes, that poster is offensive to many of us non-believers too - not sure what he/she thinks he/she is accomplishing other than venting a spleen... but apparently you have not run across the numerous smitey "lake of fire" and "move to Korea" believers who post here.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Sad

      It's unfortunate, but the new atheists of today are such more often due to a background where they were bored, self-centered brats that found Church to be an inconvenience and rationalized God away in their minds. Today, they're still bored self-centered brats that can't rid themselves of their profound dislike for religion )although the time it is wasting is now their own fault). The atheists of yesteryear came to their decisions through study, self-reflection and a thirst for facts and truth. That's not to say all the venom-filled atheists came to be as I described, but it's certainly true for many of them when you dig deep enough (although the insistence is they are just intelligent, which is kinda how you know they're not).

      April 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • One one

      @casey. It's not uncommon for the group who has had the upper hand for so long to wonder why the under class has such a problem. It was like that in the civil rights movement in the USA in the 60's. What do you suppose church folks say about atheists when they are among themselves? They don't hold back with their preachings on TV. IMO, what you are seeing in social media is non-believers who,are fed up comming out by using a media they have available to them since they don't organize themselves into churches like religious people do.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Casey

      Thank you all for these well considered and thoughtful comments. Now, I have to admit that I haven't always been as charitable as I should when the conversation gets heated on this blog. This is something I know I need to work on. I can say that in groups of friends of Faith, or at my Church, or bible study, the conversation regarding athiests is not one of dislike or any annimosity. Rather the tone is one of hoping the best for them... which of course means "Hope they find God".

      This is what my experience has been in the Catholic Church. They also hold good feelings for other Christian denomonations, Muslims, Buddists, etc. The Catholic Church does not say that peeps who follow these Faiths are "Going to Hell" or anything like that. The Church teaches that it's a lot about what is in a persons heart... and that God makes those decisions, not man. Our job is to help each other, and "Love your neighbor".

      These are the teachings I have received from the Catholic Church. There is a whole lot of misconception about Catholics out there... and yes.. the Church is very old... very big... and has taken some black eyes over past 2000 years... some of them very serious... but the modern Church is one of love, respect, and intelligence.

      April 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Jarvis.Lorry

      I've been an unabashed atheist since the age of 10. I don't go around trying to discredit religion until it starts stepping on my toes. It's clear that the Catholic hierarchy has launched it's own war against women and has joined forces with the Republican Party. The fake argument that they are losing religious freedom is nonsense. All they are trying to do is impose their will on non-Catholic women. I would urge people to read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins for a point of view that has been suppressed for centuries by religious organizations. Your lovely Catholic Church would have burned Mr. Dawkins alive in previous centuries.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  2. Frederick John

    Here's a fact: in the entire history of mankind, religion is root cause of most deaths and unfair punishments, bar none. This is true from the Roman empire to today.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Sad

      False. The wealthy and powerful are the ones to blame, religion is simply a tool they were able to use to great effect for the better part of recorded history.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Dan

      Tosh. Hitlerism, Stalinism, Pol Pot regime, colonialism, to name a quick few, are certainly contenders. and don't confuse "in the name of religion" with "in the name of those who cloak themselves in religion."

      April 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • sick of republican phonies

      The wealthy and the powerful HAVE stirred up their share of grief through the millenia. But I still think religion has them beat, hands down.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Here's a fact, atheists have unjustly killed or punished more people in the 20th century alone than religous people have done in the rest of history since Rome combined. Likely over 100 million, even without counting abortion. The atrocities of the USSR and Communist China have been matched on scale by no one. Both completely banned all forms of religion. They are joined by:
      Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge
      North Korea
      all of which outlawed religion and have all been responsible for atrocities that make Milosevic look like a nice guy (he was an atheist, too, btw.)

      April 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Magic Jew

      //Here's a fact, atheists have unjustly killed or punished more people in the 20th century alone than religous people have done in the rest of history since Rome combined.//

      They were motivated by absolute power, not by lack of belief in your magic sky pixie.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • JoJo

      The Roman Empire is hardly the beginning of mankind. I am not sure anyone really has the authority to quantify a statement like that.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Mr. F

      Magic Jew: you have told a lie. Stalin may have killed millions, but Hitler, a christian added a serious contribution to religion's totals. I also believe you are discounting the non monotheistic religions such as Hinduism, the Greek and roman pantheons, the ancient Egyptians, and the thousands of tribes in the Americas. Add all of that to the crusaded, the witch hunts, the Spanish inquisition, the various other holy land wars, and the Israel-Palestine conflict and Stalin is not even a contender.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Sad

    Sadly, neither the War on Women nor the War on Religion are made up. Equally sad is both sides feel just as stupidly justified in their war as the other. Saddest of all is just how brainwashed both sides have become and how unintelligible their arguments have become. What we really need is a War on Stupidity...

    April 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Darwin


      April 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Nilkinggary

    After confessing this week, my parish priest absolved me of sins and told me my acts of contrition were joining the Republican party, the NRA, and the Tea Party.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • One one

      Congratulations. You are now in a state of grace and most certainly will go to heaven.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • biggal195

      From a gal who also grew up (but is no longer) Catholic: Good one – both of you.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  5. Elmeaux

    Religious freedom is not being threatened. What's being threatened is the ability of the church to shield its deviance from the world. Without the ability to keep its corruption secret, they are seen for what they really are. People aren't turning away from their faith...just from the perverted middle man.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  6. One one

    Two manufactured issues.

    From the right, war on religion.

    From the left, war on women.

    Who will win ?

    April 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Sarcastro

    My religion doesn't believe in "Minimum Wages" and the absurd laws that state I can't hire 12 year olds to work dangerous jobs 13 hours a day in a factory.

    Man, I'm gonna save a fortune using the Catholic Church's logic!

    April 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Good luck finding employees.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  8. mbc

    Oh come on you guys....chill out...

    April 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  9. Sarcastro

    Yes, because employment laws and providing healthcare coverage is clearly a religious attack.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Derp

    Pharmaceuticals are against my religion, so my organization will not provide them for any of my employees for the treatment of any condition. What a great cost savings strategy!

    April 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Terry

      Yes, let them pray for health and healing and if they receive neither then clearly they weren't/aren't worthy.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  11. vbscript2

    I'm not Catholic and I don't have any problem with contraception, but I'm with them 100% on this one. It is no more legal for the federal government to force a Catholic group to fund contraception than it is legal for it to force a leftist to own a handgun, attend pro-life rallies, or campaign for Rick Santorum.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Really-O?

      I'll ask again, How is prohibiting insurance payers from denying a basic healthcare service to the insured a violation of religious freedom?

      April 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Anie

      If they want to run a business ( which other than a church should be illegal) then they need to obey the laws like every other business. Religion belongs in church and home ONLY.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      A terrible analogy that compares an individual to organisations who cater to a variety of people who may or may not share the same beliefs.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Forcing anyone to violate their religion is, by definition, an attack on religious freedom. Catholics believe contraception is wrong, however misguided they may be. Forcing them to pay for it is, therefore, completely illegal.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @vbscript2 – so where does it stop? Can any employer who's religion doesn't believe in blood transfusions, for instance, opt out? Right now, RCC-businesses are forced to pay taxes to fund wars. Do you think they should get a refund for whatever money goes to the DoD? Where's the line?

      April 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • vbscript2

      A religious person or group can own and/or run an organization and that does not provide an excuse to force them to violate their beliefs. Whether their clients or employees share their views is irrelevant. You can't violate someone's religious freedom just because they own or run some organization.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • vbscript2

      @facepalm, yes a group that doesn't believe in transfusions can opt out of them. Jehovah's Witnesses do this already, IIRC. No one is forcing anyone to work for a religious organization or to do business with them. If you don't like their benefits package, don't work for them. You don't have the right to force them to violate their beliefs for your benefit. Period.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @Vbscript – I guess I missed the part where the government was compelling catholic women to take birth control.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @vbscript2 – "Forcing anyone to violate their religion is..."

      The Catholic church is not being forced to pay for birth control; the insurance payers are being prohibited from not paying for birth control. There is a meaningful difference.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      " or to do business with them"

      Go tell that to people who live in an area only served by a Catholic-run hospital.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Should RCC-run businesses be able to opt out of the percentage of their taxes that fund the DoD?

      April 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • otto


      Jahovas Witnesses don't agree with blood transfusions. So if they open businesses like hospitals and such that have nothing do do with their church they can refuse to cover blood transfusions of their employees right? You think that is a good idea?

      April 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • visitor

      it's called healthcare.

      April 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  12. Jackie E

    As a Catholic I have had enough.....go get'm.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • otto

      As a Catholic I had enough as well.....I quit going....

      April 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • visitor

      I did too. Unfortunately, I was starting to occasionally attend Mass again, then contributed, then got stuck on mailing lists for every anti abortion cause.

      That taught me. The Church is way too embedded with political causes. Sad, because I love the ceremony and the nonsensical mystery. But I really can't stand the friggin right wing Men that run that church. Never could. I am sadly, done.

      April 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  13. Wulf

    I was raised a Catholic and once I grew up and became educated I saw this fraud (and all churches) for what they were. The catholic leadership is living in a total fantasy world and completely out of touch with humanity.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Macbeth76

      I completely agree. I myself was raised Catholic and I feel the same way.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  14. Really-O?

    How is prohibiting insurance payers from denying a basic healthcare service to the insured a violation of religious freedom?

    April 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  15. One one

    If I was god, I would make every one of those holy men in the picture pregnant, give birth, and raise the child as a single parent while holding down a minimum wage job. I wonder if some of them would change their position on contraception?

    April 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Fran

      As a lapsed Catholic, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

      April 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  16. Steve O

    Start paying taxes. Then we'll talk.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Name Required

      The only thing these guys will take on are 10-year old penis!!

      April 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  17. SconnieGuz

    Ban religion worldwide. Today's world has no room for you delusional, non-tax paying, overbearing fruitloops running around blabbering about your imaginary friend.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • vbscript2

      FYI, there are plenty of places you can go where that is already in effect. Communist China and North Korea both come to mind. I'm sure you'll find their societies much to your liking, except of course for the poverty and complete lack of freedoms.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Religion isn't banned in China – at least not all of them.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Casey

      Ah yes... anybody who spouts out something like that is not an American. You would be happier living in a Socialist society, so... be my guest and migrate. This Country was founded on Freedom. Haven't you heard of that? If you don't want to belong to a Church... well... that is your choice and you have the right to think that way... even to your own detriment. But apparently you want to stop others from having that right huh? Pathetic

      April 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • What IF


      Banning religion (and persecution) as the Communists did is not the answer. That just makes people cranky. Logic and reason and showing the fallacies of superst.ition and magical thinking is the only way for religion to fade away. I'm sorry, but it will not be speedily accomplished, however.

      The churches need not be boarded up by the government, but will one day perhaps bear signs out in front saying, "Closed for lack of evidence".

      April 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  18. Harry Baxter

    Every time they open their mouth, they lose more Catholics. It's getting so that the Red worn by the Clergy is synonomous with the Red representing the states in the GOP stranglehold.
    Yes; I'm a Catholic. I love my Church, but not the current leadership.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Casey

      Just curious... what exactly do you disagree with? Our const*tution prohibits government from establishing a religion and protects each person's right to practice (or not practice) any faith without government interference. The Church has not changed its policy against abortion or the use of contreception... the government is trying to force them to provide these services to their employees. The government is also trying to make the Church steer people they are helping (Like refugees and immigrants, or other folks) to abortion services. Now... the Church is standing up to protect these rights.

      Every American should be behind this focus... regardless of your Faith. It's the 1st ammendment! Oh yea... and nobody is saying you can't go out and buy contreceptives... if you work for the Church... they just don't want to provide it for you because it is directly against their beliefs.... so if you do work for them you'll have to fork out the 10 bucks. If you are really against the Church (Like most of the posters on this site).. well... it's not an issue because I doubt any of these peeps work for the Church.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • visitor

      Casey, they aren't paying for it.

      As for who is covered and who isn't, that is what Sandra Fluke was denied to testify about.

      April 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  19. Bad Religion

    Your kidding? These people have the audacity to thwart their moronic antiquated bronze aged beliefs on everyone else and suppress the rights of legal tax paying citizens of a SECULAR nation!
    Go eff yourselves Catholic church and your pedophile protecting ways!!! Seriously these people have NO RIGHT to ever instruct anyone in any way about morals or human decency. The church is the skid mark on the bare rear end of the great global society and I cannot be happier that their congregation numbers of plummeting!

    April 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Craig


      April 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  20. William Demuth

    These men harbor deviants who bugger little boys and hide behind an altar.

    The streets should run red with their blood.

    April 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Jimmny Crickett

      Yep, These primitive thinking zealots & their ridiculous outfits. Lets burn Rome.

      April 13, 2012 at 4:54 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.