A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the open letter and was joined by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty; and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
“We hope this letter serves as an encouragement to all of us, especially those dedicated to public service, to continue to promote both marriage and religious freedom as integral to a healthy and free society,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Marriage as the union of one man and one woman provides the best context for the birth and rearing of children and should be specially protected by law. The law, when it upholds the unique meaning of marriage, is simply recognizing an objective reality, not constructing one: children always have a mother and a father and deserve to be loved and raised by both of them. Society should work to strengthen the unique bond between husband and wife, knowing that strong marriages build stronger communities.”
The religious leaders stressed the need for civility and mutual respect, writing, “Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.”
The leaders close with a statement of their duty and love towards all: “In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.”
The letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Open-Letter-on-Marriage-and-Religious-Freedom-April-2015.pdf and follows two previous open letters: “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” issued December 6, 2010, and “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” issued January 12, 2012, which are available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/ecumenical-and-interreligious-activities.cfm.
- Faith-based entities that are not part of a “religious organization” would have no protection in hiring practices or the provision of services. Examples include:
Prairie St. John’s Hospital
St. Vincent’s Care Center (St. Vincent’s adheres to a Catholic mission, but it is owned and operated by Sanford.)
New Life Crisis Pregnancy Center
Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home
Christian Family Life Services
Perry Center Home for Unwed Mothers
Shilo High School
Hope Christian School
- If an atheist (or a professed Wiccan) applied to work at a Christian grade school as a math teacher and the school does not restrict the position to Christians of that denomination, the school could not reject the applicant even though the applicant’s stated beliefs are antithetical to the school’s mission.
- If a male applicant for a coaching position at a Catholic high school appeared for his interview wearing a dress, the school would not be allowed to reject the cross-dressing applicant so long as he says he is Catholic.
- Suppose a male coach at the Catholic school decides to always wear a dress to work. If he remains a member of the Catholic Church, the school could not take any action against him without being subject to an investigation by the Labor Department and possible legal action.
- Knights of Columbus halls would no longer be able to rent out space for wedding receptions, family reunions, or anything else unless, contrary to their religious principles, they also rent space out for same-sex wedding celebrations, pagan rituals, the Klu Klux Klan, and even a Man/Boy Love association.
- Private businesses have no protection in employment and business matters. Examples include:
Religious bookstores such as Hurley’s
Islamic (Halal) groceries
Christian-based web designers
These types of businesses would, for example, have to employ people who engage in activities that might violate their beliefs about sex outside of marriage.
In addition, all businesses would be required to participate in activities that they might find morally objectionable, such as a same-sex wedding, a celebration of divorce, etc.
- A religious-based college, such as University of Mary, that provides space, money, or approval to any student clubs, it would have to do the same for clubs for gay and lesbian students.
- Scouting and children’s organizations could not consider a person’s sexual activities and behaviors when making leadership positions.
- SB 2279 would make it illegal for religious organizations that own non-commercial housing (convent, rectory, boarding house, retreat space) to consider sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex when giving preference for space. Only religious adherence to the same faith would be allowed, even if the housing is for non-commercial purposes.
Important note: People commonly believe that the religious beliefs in these examples are protected by the U.S. Constitution. This is not true. So long as a law does target religion and applies to everyone – which is the case with the North Dakota Human Rights Act – the government may infringe upon someone’s religious beliefs without violating the U.S. Constitution.
The House Human Services Committee overwhelmingly voted against SB 2279, a bill that would give sexual acts outside of marriage special legal protection while restricting religious freedoms. The vote was 11-2 for a Do Not Pass recommendation.
The committee made an amendment to the problematic “religious exemptions” in the bill which the conference is still analyzing.
Your help is needed to stop two dangerous pieces of legislation recently passed by the Council of the District of Columbia and signed by the mayor. These acts, the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act” (RHNDA) and the “Human Rights Amendment Act” (HRAA) are subject to disapproval by Congress.
On March 6, 2015 the DC government forwarded these laws to Congress, which has 30 legislative days to pass resolutions of disapproval; after this time other avenues might be able to block the laws’ implementation.
Please act immediately on the NCHLA Action Alert found at: nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=316
On March 20, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington along with the chairmen of five committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent letters to the House and Senate urging Congress to block RHNDA and HRAA. For the text of the US bishops’ letter see www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/ADW-USCCB-letter-DC-bills-3-20-15.pdf
The state House is considering SB 2279, often called the “sexual orientation non-discrimination” bill. A vocal campaign in favor of the bill has tried to make the bill a referendum on how a person feels about sexual orientation discrimination. According to them, if discrimination based on sexual orientation is “bad,” you must support the bill. Opposing the bill, to them, means that you endorse such discrimination.
The truth is that the bill is not about how one feels about sexual orientation. The truth is that the bill gives special legal protection – the right to sue – based on an individual’s sexual-related acts.
In addition, the bill is a direct attack – some would say a right to harass – on individuals and organizations with sincere religious beliefs about those sexual acts.
For more information, see the testimony of the conference against SB 2279.
Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015. The Act would forbid the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.
The letters of support are available online at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Rep-Kelly-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Sen-Enzi-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf
Catholic and Evangelical Humanitarian Agencies Voice Concern Over Impact of Rule Regarding Unaccompanied Children
“We believe that, through practical discussions, we can find a resolution that allows the government to fulfill its obligation to care for unaccompanied children, while also respecting the religious and moral beliefs of faith-based organization that, to date, have provided such critical care for this vulnerable population,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in joint comments filed on February 20 along with the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, Inc., Catholic Relief Services and World Relief.
The organizations stressed their commitment to support and strengthen protections for these minors in ways that respect the organizations’ religious and moral convictions. “In cases where pregnancy occurs, those of us participating in the program are willing to continue to provide health care access, as we have for years, in a manner consistent with our religious beliefs,” the comments noted.
The comments stated that the rule falls short of having adequate protections for those organizations with religious or moral objections to certain requirements under the rule, including providing minors and victims of sexual abuse access to “emergency contraception” and access “to all lawful pregnancy-related medical services,” which the comments indicated “apparently includes abortion.”
The comments also noted that the rule has implications regarding human sexuality and therefore requests that ORR ensure that organizations remain free to act in accord with their religious beliefs and moral convictions in the area of human sexuality when providing care for unaccompanied minors.
The comments responded to an interim final rule that was published in the Federal Register on December 24, 2014.
Currently, six out of nine national refugee resettlement agencies in the United States are faith-based organizations, including the USCCB, which is the largest in terms of persons served, and World Relief, which mobilizes the resources of the evangelical community. Together, these organizations resettle the majority of refugees entering the United States each year.
Congress should reaffirm the principle that government should not force anyone to stop offering or covering much-needed legitimate health care because of a conscientious objection to abortion or other procedures, said Cardinal Seán P. OMalley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. In a February 13 letter to the House of Representatives, the bishops, who chair the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged legislators to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940).
It is increasingly obvious that Congress needs to act to protect conscientious objection to the taking of innocent human life, wrote Cardinal OMalley and Archbishop Lori. Recently Californias Department of Managed Health Care began demanding that all health plans under its jurisdiction include elective abortions, including late-term abortions. This mandate has no exemption for religious or moral objections, and is being enforced against religious universities, schools and even churches. Similar proposals have emerged in Washington and other states.
The bishops noted that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) section of the bill would give firmer legal basis to the Weldon amendment, part of every Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, which forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. They noted that President Obama has expressed support for the Weldon amendment.
In addition, the bishops said that H.R. 940 would incorporate respect for rights of conscience into the Affordable Care Act, allowing those who purchase, provide and sponsor health coverage under the Act to opt out of abortion or other specific items that violate their moral and religious convictions. Finally the bill would recognize a private right of action for victims of discrimination under either provision, so they can go to court to defend their rights.
We strongly urge you to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, the bishops concluded.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-Urge-Congress-to-Support-HR-940-Health-Care-Conscience-Rights-Act.pdf
The Senate Judiciary has given a Do Not Pass recommendation to SB 2279, the very flawed bill to grant special legal rights to vaguely defined sexual activities and behaviors.
The Catholic Church affirms the God-given dignity of every human life and rejects unjust discrimination, but this bill is irredeemably flawed. It’s vague definitions – or lack of them – extend to giving special legal protection to sexual acts. Moreover, the bill lacks any meaningful protections for religious freedom.
Contact your state senator and urge him or her to vote No on SB 2279.
When: Now. The senate could vote on the bill as early as tomorrow.
Where: North Dakota Senate
Message: Please vote NO on SB 2279. I don’t support unjust discrimination against anyone, but this bill is too broad and does not protect sincere religious beliefs.