Churches End Fortnight of Freedom Today With Bell Tolls

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 4, 2012   |   12:11PM   |   Washington, DC

Millions of Americans marked the Fortnight of Freedom campaign launched by the nation’s Catholic bishops and supported by pro-life and Christian Americans of all denominations in response to President Barack Obama’s HHS mandate. Today, that campaign will end with thousands of churches ringing their bells across the country.

“We invite you all in your houses of worship with bells to join us in this special sign of solidarity for religious liberty – to ‘let freedom ring!'” the bishops said.

The bishops have also been strongly opposed to the provisions in the Obamacare bill allowing abortion funding and paving the way for rationing. In a new statement, following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they called for changes to the law.

“For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable,” they said. “Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not participate in these cases and took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court, USCCB’s position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record.  The bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA for several reasons.”

“First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy.  The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of “high risk” insurance pools that would have covered abortion,” the statement continued.

“Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context,” the Catholic leaders added. “We have provided extensive analyses of ACA’s defects with respect to both abortion and conscience.  The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s “preventive services” mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.”



“The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above,” they concluded. “We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.”

The “Fortnight for Freedom” was sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and backed by prominent right-to-life organizations. According to the USCCB, “Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.”

In total, 43 Catholic dioceses, universities, hospitals and other religious organizations sued the Obama Administration to protect their religious freedom.

The National Right to Life Committee has warned the HHS mandate also paves the way for the forced coverage of surgical abortions. The organization said, “The Obama Administration has issued a requirement that religious institutions, such as religious schools and hospitals, pay for health insurance plans that provide drugs and procedures that violate the groups’ religious and moral convictions. The same rationale used for this could later be used to require coverage for surgical abortions also.”

The group also notes, “The Obama Administration killed a conscience regulation that would have protected health care workers from being punished for refusing to participate in abortions.”

President Obama’s unwavering pro-abortion advocacy has earned him the endorsement of the nation’s top pro-abortion groups including Planned Parenthood and NARAL.  In contrast, Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is endorsed by National Right to Life PAC, has pledged to do away with the Obama HHS mandate and says he believes Obamacare must be repealed.

In a Washington Examiner opinion piece, Romney wrote, “…on day one I will eliminate the Obama Administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith. Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.”

As Romney addressed graduates of Liberty University in May, he remarked, “Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.”

A list of participating dioceses and scheduled events can be found on the USCCB website.  For more information on the stances of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the life issues, please consult this comparison piece from National Right to Life.