Catholic bishops and many other religious leaders, notably in the USA but also in the Philippines and elsewhere, have been conspicuous in using arguments about “religious freedom” in lobbying efforts to restrict access to contraception, same –sex marriage and more.
This argument is superficially reasonable, but falls down when it is used, as it generally is, to restrict the religious freedom of individual Catholics to disagree in good conscience with the Church on these matters. In the US, Catholics for Choice have joined with other faith – based groups have pointed out this religious hypocrisy, in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. This specific case refers to contraception coverage, but the core principle applies equally to equal marriage
Catholic Organizations: Supreme Court Should Protect Real Religious Freedom
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Today, Catholics for Choice and 29 other faith-based organizations filed an amicus brief in two contraceptive coverage cases pending before the Supreme Court: Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius. Drafted by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the brief is signed by faith-based organizations committed to real religious liberty. The Catholic signatories, which reflect the diversity and values of the majority of American Catholics, also include CORPUS, DignityUSA, New Ways Ministry, Women’s Ordination Conference, the National Coalition of American Nuns and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER).
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “The faith-based organizations joining this friend-of-the-court brief represent a wide variety of religious traditions and areas of interest. We stand united in our belief that America is stronger when real religious liberty is protected and every individual’s conscience is respected.
“The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties and their conservative supporters argue that religious freedom means having the freedom to impose their beliefs on other people. However, the majority of Americans, including people of faith, disagree with them. The groups joining this brief show unequivocally that people of faith support contraceptive access and true religious liberty for all.
“One of the loudest voices opposing equity in contraceptive coverage has been the Catholic hierarchy. But it’s important to remember that the bishops represent a tiny minority within the Catholic church. There are more than 75 million Catholics in the United States and only 300 bishops. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active Catholic women have used a method of contraception banned by the hierarchy. Indeed, of the amici standing united in support for contraceptive coverage, seven are Catholic organizations representing the majority Catholic opinion.
“Catholics for Choice—and the majority of Catholics—support the rights of conscience, religious liberty and human dignity for all women, no matter where they work or how they receive their insurance. It is beyond ridiculous to claim that institutions have consciences or religious liberty. Conscience and religious liberty rights belong properly to individuals, according to our Catholic faith, and we are compelled by that faith to stand up for this appropriate application of the US Constitution to support employees’ right to access contraceptive coverage according to their ethical beliefs, not those of their employer.
- Quote for Day: “Freedom to Discriminate Against Gay people in Hiring is the Second Prong of the Catholic Bishops’ 15-Year Effort to Expand the Definition of ‘Religious Liberty'” (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- COMMENTARY: The Catholic case for contraception coverage (religionnews.com)
- The nuns’ Obamacare contraception lawsuit isn’t about religious freedom | Jill Filipovic (theguardian.com)