Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yesterday's 'Religious Freedom' Rallies

Across the country yesterday, protests organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops were held against the federal Department of Health and Human Services' mandate on contraceptive coverage. Styled as rallies for "religious freedom," the protests served as a precursor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Fortnight of Freedom" campaign, and were billed by the bishops as non-partisan and non-political. Yet as William D. Lindsey notes in his excellent analysis, and Max Brantley reports from Little Rock, Arkansas, the rallies were very much partisan political events. "Religion IS just about conservative politics for a significant number of people. And vice versa," writes Brantley. And if that "doesn't remind you of some Middle Eastern regimes, it should."

Following is an excerpt from Brantley's article.

It was a political event. A Republican politician was a featured speaker. Republican political operatives were on hand and sent out photos, such as the one above. Republicans called the roll on which Republicans were in attendance and Democrats who were not. Obamacare and abortion were much on the minds of the attendees. Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor got a noticeably cool response when he mentioned the government's ill treatment of immigrants. Taylor, whose advocacy for immigrants was once a foundational interest, has become more engaged in sexual politics of late, and not just the all-out fight against contraception. He also recently punished a vital Latino assistance group because of its tangential relationship to an out-of-state organization that believed help to immigrant families should include those headed by same-sex parents.

In short: Friday's rally was primarily about people who want to defeat President Obama's health care policies and defeat Obama in the fall. A non-existent attack on religion was the bloody shirt.

As noted above, theologian and writer William D. Lindsey offers a compelling analysis of yesterday's rallies, and makes some insightful connections.

. . . [A]bundant empirical evidence shows younger Americans who have grown up in churched homes leaving the churches in droves as they grow up, precisely because the religious right has to such a significant extent captured the voice of American churches. And because people of faith in "tolerant" and "liberal" churches who pull against that development — especially in places like Arkansas, where the development is so strong — are wishy-washy, won't open their mouths to speak out, and stand by in tacit consent as the oppression unfolds. And younger Americans are sick and tired of all of this, of the identification of Christian faith with right-wing politics, and, above all, with gay bashing.

To read William's piece in its entirety, click here.

And speaking of making connections, in an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Susan Hogan notes that yesterday's rallies took place on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. bishops' meeting in Dallas to address the clergy sex abuse crisis, and that just as they did then, the bishops are "once again portraying themselves as victims."

Writes Hogan:

The bishops never excoriated prelates who'd covered up abuse in the way that they've aggressively assailed President Obama these past few months for seeking to protect women's access to contraception, no matter their income or employer. Back then, the bishops said church doctrine didn't allow them to reprimand brother bishops; that was the pope's place.

We know how that turned out: It didn't happen. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, the face of the bishops' ineptitude, was given a cushy position in Rome, from which he only recently retired. Rather than taking responsibility for their failing to deal with predatory priests, most bishops blamed the mismanagement on their predecessors.

To read Hogan's op-ed in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous PCV posts:
Quote of the Day — June 4, 2012
Did the Catholic Organizations Have to Sue Over the Health Care Mandate?
Why the Catholic Church is Divided

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Religious Right Turns 33: What Have We Learned? — Jonathan Merritt (The Atlantic, June 8, 2012).
Catholic Theological Society of America Considers Resolution on Contraception Mandate — Grant Gallicho (Commonweal, June 8, 2012).
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry Victim — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 5, 2011).
Persecuted "Enemies of the State"? Or Just Sore Losers? — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 25, 2011).
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society — Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, December 30, 2011).
Minnesotans Rally for Religious Freedom — Dave Hrbacek (The Catholic Spirit, June 8, 2012).
Minnesota Catholic Conference Launches 'First Freedom Project' — Jason Adkins (The Catholic Spirit, May 22, 2012).
Observing a 'Fortnight of Freedom' — Archbishop John C. Nienstedt (The Catholic Spirit, June 7, 2012).
Catholic bishops — Religious Liberty, Religion's Shame — Susan Hogan (Star Tribune, June 6, 2012).


  1. What are Catholic demonstrators saying? How is their religious liberty being threatened? Are Catholic women being forced to use contraceptives? Are Catholics being forced to pay for the contraceptives that other women want to use? Are they forced into same-sex marriage? Or is the problem that they are forced to live in a country where others may opt for behaviors that their religion finds objectionable? Is their religious liberty threatened by the fact of other people's religious liberty? Why exactly are the demonstrators out there except that they have been incited by leadership? I wish the Archbishop would explain--and enter into dialogue about--exactly what it is that is threatening to him.

  2. This is such a frustrating issue. I wish there was a rally for Catholics who support Obama's Healthcare plan. I mean- I know that the Catholic Church is anything but democratic, but I still wish that there were some way for the reportedly 80% of Catholics that support birth control use to have a voice, especially those who support women's right to choose.

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  4. Thanks for sharing what you know about the matter. It's always good to know that there are people like who took the time to really share their thoughts to help other people.

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