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Our View: Obama's assault on religion

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  • | 5:00 a.m. February 8, 2012
  • Longboat Key
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No ideas are more fundamental to our nation’s heritage and moral principles than those expressed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The idea of religious freedom took root in America 150 years before that first shot heard around the world rang out for freedom and independence. The Puritans at Plymouth Rock had left England and the Netherlands for a safe haven in America for the express purpose to escape religious persecution and to practice their religious beliefs freely and in peace.

And when the Founding Fathers later codified the Bill of Rights, they deliberately made the first clause in those rights to say: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

This has been a sacred, inviolable principle in this land for 392 years. Until now.

Shockingly, this inalienable right, as viewed by Barack Obama, is to become subservient to the coercion and brute force of the State. Obama apparently believes he and the state have the tyrannical authority to usurp this fundamental right.

This should be the fatal blow to Obama’s reign. American Catholics will see to it. As will all others who cherish freedom of religion. And they should.

Throughout Catholic Masses this past Sunday, parish priests informed their communicants of what amounts to a declaration of war on freedom of religion. Priests and bishops informed their parishioners of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruling last week that, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will require almost all employers, including the Catholic Church, to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those services in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

The Rev. Fausto Stampiglia, pastor of St. Martha Catholic Church in downtown Sarasota, told his parishioners in a hushed serious tone that when he and his family left his native Italy as a boy, they were fleeing the communism and socialism that was sweeping through Europe. “I never thought I would see it in the United States,” he told parishioners. “We are seeing it now.”

Father Fausto went on to read a letter to all Diocese of Venice Catholics from Bishop Frank J. Dewane — see the accompanying box below — decrying the HHS mandate.

But beware, all who believe in freedom of religion. The supporters of Obama’s attack on religious freedom will cast as kooks and extremists those who oppose this outrageous act of tyranny. The Obama administration will deny that it is infringing on religious freedom. It will deny that its rules force Americans to act against their religious consciences.

To wit: In a White House blog, the administration posted a series of claims to dispel the opposition.

Among them:
“No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception,” the White House says. “This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.”

To which the Catholic Church responds: “The statement that no one will be forced to buy it is false. Women who want contraception will be able to obtain it without co-pay or deductible precisely because women who do NOT want contraception will be forced to help pay for it through their premiums. This mandate passes costs from those who want the service, to those who object to it.”

The White House: “Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.”

Catholic Church: “This is not entirely true. To be eligible, even churches and houses of worship must show the government that they hire and serve primarily people of their own faith and have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose. Some churches may have service to the broader community as a major focus, for example, by providing direct service to the poor regardless of faith. Such churches would be denied an exemption precisely because their service to the common good is so great. More importantly, the vast array of other religious organizations — schools, hospitals, universities, charitable institutions — will clearly not be exempt.”

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, the coercive grip of government has grown tighter and tighter over every aspect of our lives, squeezing the life out of the liberty our Founding Fathers bestowed. With this usurpment of religious freedom, our struggling nation is on the precipice of the same dark chasm that caused the Puritans to flee to America and Plymouth, Mass.

Think about it: In 2009 and 2010, the members of the Tea Party said they had had enough and were tired of the government’s confiscatory spending. In 2012, we now have members of religious faiths protesting a gross infringement on freedom of religion. Americans should be alarmed.

Write your congressman. The HHS rule on contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization must be repealed. It is not hyperbole to say: Your liberty is at stake.


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The following are excerpts of a letter from Bishop Frank Dewane that was read last Sunday to Catholics at all masses in the Diocese of Venice:

“An alarming and serious matter … strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be ‘of, by, and for the people,’ has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful …

“In so ruling, the administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).

“The administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply. We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.

“Do not be misled by attempts to turn this into a debate about Church teaching or the morality of contraception. The issue here is religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

“Already our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of goodwill have joined in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.

“Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.

“In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust She can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Future generations deserve nothing less.

“Therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that Wisdom and Justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.

“Second, I would also recommend visiting to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the administration’s decision …”


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