Calling the Obama administration “the most tone deaf to religious liberty issues in recent memory,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput warned that religious freedom in the U.S. is “at risk,” and that “the more government mandates evil action, the more likely civil disobedience becomes.”
Last February, Chaput urged his fellow prelates to take the “right action…whatever the cost” regarding the Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate, which requires nearly all insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act to pay for sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs.
Due to “an unfriendly political class” and believers’ own apathy, Chaput told CNSNews.com, “government pressure on religious communities has clearly increased.” Which is why, he says, that religious freedom must not be taken for granted, but be “vigorously defended” in the nation’s courts and state houses.
CNSNews.com: Gen. [William] Boykin (Ret.) recently said that ‘Given our nation’s history as a country formed in large part by communities fleeing religious persecution, the principle of religious freedom has long stood as a core national ideal, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and guaranteed to all Americans.’ Do you think that this ‘core national ideal’ is now at risk?
Archbishop Chaput: “I think President Obama’s recent prayer breakfast comments about religious freedom were interesting but also curious, because in practice, the people who staff his administration have been the most tone deaf to religious liberty issues in recent memory. There’s a very odd disconnect in praising religious freedom while the Justice Department goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“So yes, religious freedom is one of our core national ideals, and yes, it’s at risk from two sources: an unfriendly political class, and our own distracted attention and indifference.”
CNSNews.com: Are Christians being persecuted for their beliefs in the U.S.?
Archbishop Chaput: “’Persecuted’ is a big word. We’re not in Pakistan or North Korea. But it would be very unwise to ignore the implications of government coercion like the HHS mandate, or the misuse of the IRS, or political and judicial attacks on the nature of marriage.
“Government pressure on religious communities has clearly increased in our country in recent years. The United States has no magic immunity attached to its liberties. The Constitution, as great as it is, is still just a piece of paper unless people vigorously protect their rights.
“For religious believers, that means defending their faith in the courts and legislatures. It also means living their faith with joy and conviction, publicly as well as privately.”
CNSNews.com: What should Catholics do in the face of government mandates that would force them to act against key tenets of the Faith?
Archbishop Chaput: “Catholics have a duty to respect legitimate authority and pray for our political leaders, whether we personally care for them or not. The Church seeks to cooperate with public officials because we’re a community of citizens as well as believers.
“But there are limits, and the more that government mandates evil actions, the more likely civil disobedience becomes,” Chaput added.
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