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With the simple stroke of a pen, Barack Obama tossed the First Amendment protection of religious freedom out the window, say many American Catholic and Protestant church leaders, and they are urging all Americans to join the fight to take the freedom back.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a longtime abortion promoter, announced that beginning Aug. 1, employers will be required to pay for and provide birth control, including abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of deeply held religious beliefs to the contrary.
When church leaders expressed their concerns she said they could have an extra 12 months, until Aug. 1 of next year, to make their beliefs match her policy.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” said many church leaders.
Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York and also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote in the Wall Street Journal warning all Americans to stand up and take notice of Obama’s actions.
“Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government,” he said.
“When the Founding Fathers determined that the innate rights of men and women should be enshrined in our Constitution, they so esteemed religious liberty that they made it the first freedom in the Bill of Rights.
“Coercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience.
“This latest erosion of our first freedom should make all Americans pause. When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead,” he wrote.
Michael Anthony Milton, who serves as the chancellor/CEO elect of Reformed Theological Seminary, agrees with the archbishop and says that this is “not just a Catholic issue, it’s not just a contraception issue, it is a religious liberty issue – an American issue.”
“We were told this would not happen. We were told to just let the bill pass and read it later.
“Well, we are reading it now. And the fine print doesn’t look good for religious freedom.
“As the next chancellor and CEO of one of America’s largest protestant seminaries, I can tell you that the Obama health care mandate is already having an enormous impact on our ministry.”
He said, “Yet until this latest revelation, the impact has mostly been financial. In a word, this thing is going to be extraordinarily expensive.”
He goes on to warn that unless there is a repeal of this act, “or unless there are dramatic steps taken to curb government prying into the consciences of religious institutions that appeal to a higher law than man’s, we will have a constitutional crisis on our hands.”
Last Sunday, Catholic priests across the nation read variations of a letter, calling parishioners to action.
In most if not all versions, Catholic leaders declared, “We cannot – we will not comply with this unjust law.
“People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will 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. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.”
This week, a Catholic, grassroots campaign has been launched to equip faithful Catholics to speak out against the government intrusion. They urge concerned citizens to sign up at www.protectourconscience.org.
They are seeking at least one leader in each of the nation’s 17,000 parishes to help rally the faithful into sending a powerful message to Washington.
“If faithful Catholics were able to average 115 letters per parish to their representative and each senator, Capitol Hill would receive over 6 million contacts on the issue. We would send a powerful message that cannot be ignored,” organizers say.
According to CNN, Dolan had a phone conversation with Obama just before the HHS mandate was made public.
“Dolan expressed his disappointment to the president and asked if the measure could be changed to include more religious exemptions, to which the president said ‘no,'” the report said.
Obama spoke during an address to the National Prayer Breakfast essentially that the teachings of a faith just won’t suffice.
“Part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face,” he said.
He pledged that meeting the challenges we face as a nation “require sound decision-making and smart policies.”
“We can’t leave our values at the door,” he said.
But members of Catholic and Protestant groups alike wonder why their values don’t count.
The issue is far from resolved. WND reported earlier on a court case being brought against the government by Belmont Abbey College of Belmont, N.C.
It was estimated the college could be assessed $400,000 in penalties if officials there do not agree to violate their religious teachings and comply with the new rules.
Emily Hardman, speaking on behalf of the Becket Fund, which is representing Belmont Abbey College in court, said to WND, “Obamacare strikes at the heart of religious liberty.”
Furthermore, “Usually there are religious exemptions [in these federal health care bills], but this new bill is so narrow that even the ministry of Christ would not qualify.”