|Elections may be over, but vigilance for religious freedom goes on|
Recently I heard a comment that went something like this--now that the elections are over we can get back to normal. Given the matters and issues that still confront us about health care and mandates about what the government presently is demanding, I would dare say that we cannot afford to “go back to normal.” In fact, we need to be very aware of what is happening regarding these matters of health care and mandates, lest the impact on living out our Catholic faith is dramatically altered.
This situation just did not happen as if out of a vacuum. Let us not be naïve. There are elements within our country that desire a radical change to our American way of life. For over 200 years American life has respected the role of religion and its engagements as positive elements enhancing the quality of people’s lives. However, what is being proposed would displace what the Founding Fathers of our country enshrined in our Constitution, including the amendments.
I suggest that elements within our country and within the government itself have been working in a direction that would displace the rich history of religious freedom, diversity within our society, and the engagement of religious groups interacting publicly for the good of all people. The history of our country attests that the good will and dedicated commitments by religious individuals and religious organizations have had a very positive contribution of the quality of life in our country. Only now is this reality being deemed unacceptable by many, including a number of our civil leaders!
One only needs to look at what the government proposes for a way to handle concerns of religious groups to see what is really happening. Even though the First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the government aspires the free exercise of religion by deciding the criteria which determines what is religious! To say this is boldness is an understatement. One can only wonder where does the government get the experience or expertise to be making such judgments. This is being done to legitimize the agenda that is being fostered, thus replacing over 200 years of American life.
The government has come up with its decision that it is their role to define what determines the definition of “religious employers” for the sake of religious organizations seeking an exemption from the HHS Mandate. And so, the government has decided that a religious organization exists solely for inculcating religious values to the members of the religion. However, anyone who knows anything about these matters realizes that for many religions among their purposes is also to share their beliefs with others. Anyone who has read the New Testament certainly recognizes this as an appropriate role for religion.
In addition, the decision offered by the government regarding employees of the religion would indicate that their organizations must primarily employ people who share the same faith as the religious organizations. Thus, a religion that sponsors a college would be limited in whom they might hire to teach nursing or mathematics or any such subjects.
And lastly, regarding who the religious organization serves would by their determination be limited to those who are adherents of the faith community, so much for serving those who are in need be they individuals in need of health care or people who are in need of social services. Many religions are committed to lessening the burdens of others, no matter what the faith of people might be. In fact, for many religions what they do is not for the good of only their own followers but for the good of all people. The present determinations by which “religious” is decided is not narrow and self-serving as what is offered by the government, rather the description of “religious” as defined by religious groups is much more open to responding to the needs of people than what our government would limit religions to do.
It certainly appears from these determinations that the “free exercise” of religion has been prohibited by these regulations. I trust anyone can see the direction our country is going. Religion is fast on the way to becoming a department within the government--sounds like what other governments have tried to do to their people!
As we learn more and more about these recent events we should be ever vigilant about the freedoms that we have and be involved in a truly responsible way to the vision of our Founding Fathers, to the commitment of supporting and enhancing both the common good and individual freedoms, and lastly to protecting the most basic freedom of all, the freedom of Religious Liberty.