And so, Catholics who actually care about both their faith and the United States Constitution mobilized their troops, and sent them out onto the only battlefield that really matters in this country of bloodless coups (The Battle of Roe v. Wade, for example): the courts.
On Monday, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools and social-service agencies flooded 12 federal courts with a request for justice, challenging the Obama administration’s mandate that their employees’ birth control be covered by health insurance. Some of us thought that this already had been settled when the administration caved to public outrage, saying that religious organizations would not have to directly provide that coverage.
Timothy Dolan, New York’s prelate, said at the time that "we reserve judgment on the details until we have them."
Apparently, those details were either insufficient or nonexistent, because the archdioceses of New York, Washington, St. Louis, Dallas/Fort Worth, Rockville Center, Pittsburgh and Springfield, Ill., decided that the waiting game was over.
Imagine that. Catholic citizens from the Northeast, the Midwest and the South have banded together to send this strong, organized message to President Obama: You’re personally in favor of civil rights, Mr. President? You believe that bigotry has no place in this greatest of nations? OK, we’re holding you to your word.
Our own Archbishop Charles Chaput has put it even more succinctly: "Philadelphia is the birthplace of American independence. It is the cradle of our rights as a free people. There’s no better place to begin the renewal of our nation’s first and most important freedom: religious liberty."
Sounds pretty clear to me. But there will always be those with a political or moral ax to grind, who think that these lawsuits are a unified Republican attack on a Democratic president, who still buy that ridiculous line about a "war on women." Only someone with an extremely shallow intellect can believe that forcing a woman to buy her own birth control is an act of aggression. And people who think that the only Catholics who care about their faith are the ones who keep their holy cards next to their GOP registration have missed the point completely. This is a cry for freedom, one that is as pure and unadulterated as those raised on the battlefields of Lexington and Gettysburg.
Speaking of which, I’m particularly proud that Pennsylvania is in the forefront of this struggle, given that our Commonwealth was founded by William Penn, who would have signed on with the plaintiffs. His proxies in Erie and Pittsburgh have done the same.
According to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the dioceses in those two cities filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the HHS mandate because it covered "abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception in health-care plans." And that’s an important point. This isn’t just about a woman getting free monthly pills. This is about universities like Notre Dame being forced to subsidize, even indirectly, a student’s sterilization. It’s about Georgetown, which hypocritically invited HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a commencement speaker, being forced to cover abortifacent drugs.
It amazes me that President Obama thought that he could get away with this attack on religion, and on my church in particular.But more importantly, I’m offended that he and his administration think that the Constitution doesn’t apply to religious people who stand in the way of secular progress.
Onward, citizen soldiers.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer. Send email to email@example.com and read her blog at philly.com/FlowersShow