Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What the Catholic bishops seek is religious tyranny, not religious liberty

In perhaps one of their most deceitful efforts, the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops yesterday sought to recast their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage as a struggle for “religious liberty” against a government that is impinging on the church’s rights.  As reported in The New York Times today, they cited that Catholic agencies that receive state funding in Illinois and a few other states had been “forced” to stop providing adoption and foster care services because the state required them to provide the same services to same-sex couples as heterosexual couples.

Let’s talk about religious liberty.  The right protected by the Constitution is that the government can make no law prohibiting the free exercise ones religion or “respecting an establishment of religion.”

In their vocal opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage, not just as a moral issue but to get the government to prohibit women from getting abortions and prohibit same-sex civil marriage, the bishops are in fact seeking to impose their religious views on the rest of the nation through government action. That would violate both the rights of the members of other religions who do not believe that abortions should be prohibited to practice their religion, and it would thus in fact if not in language be a law respecting the establishment of religion by preferring one religious viewpoint over others. 

This is an example of religious tyranny, not religious liberty.  If Catholics were forced to have abortions or if the Catholic church were forced to perform same-sex marriages, that would be a violation of religious liberty.  But that is not what is involved here.  Even on the same-sex marriage issue, no one is suggesting that churches be forced to perform or recognize such marriages.  It is solely a civil government matter.

What about their argument that they are being “forced” to abandon adoption and foster care services? Again, this is simply not the case.  The church’s agencies are perfectly free to provide such services solely to heterosexuals and discriminate against same-sex couples. All laws regarding sexual orientation rights provide for exempting religious institutions who oppose homosexuality.

However, if they choose to apply for state aid for these services, then they must comply with state rules, both legislated and constitutional, regarding the use of state funds.  That in no way prohibits their religious liberty.  If they want to continue discriminating, they are free to do so … just without state aid.

It is shameful that the bishops have cloaked their attempt at religious tyranny and their desire to use state funds to discriminate under the banner of religious liberty.