Catholic Bishops Say Government is Eroding Americans’ Religious Liberty
U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have vowed to defend their religious liberty in the face of growing acceptance of gay marriage and what they called secular attempts to marginalize faith and people of faith.
Bishop William Lori, leader of a new national religious liberty committee, condemned federal and state policies that he said interfered with the church's ability to provide social services, from health care to immigrant support to international aid.
Recent years have produced a number of collisions between government policies and religious doctrine at the local, state and national level. Most of the disagreements are over abortion rights and gay rights.
On the federal level, the bishops have been pressing the Health and Human Services Department for a broader religious exception to part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that mandates private insurers pay for contraception.
"We should not be obliged to provide services or other initiatives that are contrary to our conscience," said Lori, bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. "We don't need the government forcing our hand."
Among other issues, the bishops hope to persuade Congress to retain the Defense of Marriage Act which passed in 1996, but which the Obama administration refuses to enforce or defend.
On the other hand, administration officials say Catholic social service nonprofits, including the bishops' conference, gets hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding in amounts that have increased in the last couple of years.