Bishop Lennon's column from the Catholic Universe Bulletin
Back in March, I was gratified and inspired to see so many people fill the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate Mass before the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in downtown Cleveland.
After Mass, as I shook your hands and listened to your comments, I could see and feel the concern each of you have about the health and human services mandate requiring all employers, even those that are religious institutions, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, to provide health care insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, abortion or other medical procedures even if those procedures are against the individual?s or institution?s conscience.
As I said in my homily, this is not just a Catholic issue. The Catholic bishops are standing up for all people of faith to defend their First Amendment right to follow their maker and live their lives according to his or her religious beliefs.
As promised by the Bishops, we have not let this issue simply fade away in bureaucratic red tape. We have continued to stand with faithful throughout the country in speaking up for religious freedom.
Most recently, our own Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day filed 12 lawsuits in federal courts across the U.S. on behalf of 43 Catholic dioceses, schools, hospitals and social services agencies challenging the Health and Human Services mandate as a violation of religious freedom under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Cleveland Diocese has come out in full support of this action as well.
But as Catholics, we can?t stop there.
This summer we have an opportunity to have our voices continue to be heard about this important issue.
The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging all Catholics and people of other faith traditions as well to participate in the Fortnight for Freedom.
This two-week period will begin on June 21--the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More--until July 4, which is of course our nation?s celebration of Independence Day.
These special two weeks, which include within it the feast days of several saints who were martyred for Christ when facing persecution by political powers of their day, will include time for study, prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, rallying and public action in the form of letters to Congress and President Barack Obama.
Together, we can make a difference. For this is not just about the faith we cherish so deeply but all those who cherish their own faith traditions as well.
Let our voices be heard!