The following was sent January 30, 2012. As of this February 7, it has not been published.
Jane Ahlin’s latest column, “Clear American priority muddied by the GOP right,” contains its own muddled thinking, but one thing is clear: In her zeal for free sterilization and contraception she is willing to run rough-shod over our most fundamental “first freedoms” — the freedom of religion.
It is the height of arrogance for the government to dictate what is and what is not “religious” and then force church bodies to buy something that violates their religious tenets.
Like the federal officials behind the new mandate, Ahlin has the audacity to declare that religious providers of social services are engaged in a mere “business,” not a religious activity.
That would be news to the Presentation Sisters who came to Fargo to start a school in 1882 and eventually operated fifteen schools, an orphanage, five hospitals, and a nursing home. It would be news to the Benedictine Sisters who first came to Bismarck in 1878 to start a school and would later open the first hospital in the Dakotas and launch the University of Mary. Or what about the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation in Valley City and the Franciscan Sisters in Hankinson, both of whom have provided education, medical care, and social services to North Dakotans for decades? These women religious came here with little or nothing and through great sacrifices built these institutions because they thought that doing so was a religious calling.
In addition to trampling on the First Amendment, the rule amounts to a slap in the face to all people of faith who have ever responded to the call to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bury the dead, visit the imprisoned, and comfort those in need.
Christopher Dodson, Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference