Recently, on July 4th, America celebrated its independence – one built on upholding key foundations of liberty, such as our right to religious freedom. However, the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the ACA means that the radical Department of Health and Human Services mandate will go into effect.
The mandate will force religious institutions to provide coverage for services that violate their faith has trampled on an ideal that we as a nation hold dear. The mandate has caused a serious rift between the Democratic Party and Catholics – of which I am both. Sadly, this unthinkable move threatens a long and proud relationship, one in which many Boston Democrats have been honored to be part of.
In 1998, I was invited to the President Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Marist College in Hyde Park, New York, to participate in a two day conference about the role of Catholics during the World War II years. Many distinguished scholars, historians, journalists and political and religious people attended and participated in the remarkably informative conference. Much of what we discussed is now part of recorded history that has been written about extensively in numerous books and publications.
But one aspect of that FDR Library Conference which was most revealing to me was the extraordinary close political relationship that President Roosevelt had with Catholics and the Church. The closeness between the Democratic Party and Catholics was telling. Catholics were an important and significant part of the President and the Democratic Party’s political base in America at the time.
Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the prominent historian and advisor to the late President John F. Kennedy and I spent considerable time discussing this topic publicly and privately. We read speeches and papers that FDR had read and authorized in his name. We studied his close relationship with Edward Flynn and Jim Farley of New York City as well as so many other well-known Catholic political operatives. FDR spoke to them regularly and relied on them for advice. It was unthinkable for most Catholics not to vote the straight Democratic ticket. That’s exactly how I remember it growing up in Irish Catholic South Boston. We all knew of the close personal friendship that the Kennedy family had with our neighbor Richard Cardinal Cushing and so many other Church leaders. Especially in time of trouble to many Irish immigrant families in those days, it was both the Church and the Democratic Party who were always there to help, if needed. They were working for better and safer work conditions on the docks, medical care, educating kids and helping the poor. People in those days were loyal to the Church and the Democratic Party.
You can’t imagine how I felt when I saw my longtime friend Cardinal Timothy Dolan filing a legal challenge against the Obama Administration for their discriminatory policies against religious institutions in America. I am proud of Cardinal Dolan, but ashamed that this administration has let it come to this. Nobody would have thought that this could have be imaginable 25 years ago. The Catholic Church suing The White House for violations of religious liberties? Unthinkable! What happened to separation of church and state?
It is outrageous that the administration has taken action to trample on the rights of religious institutions and people of faith, and even more outrageous that this action has been deemed just by the Supreme Court. The issue here is not about contraception as the media attempts to frame it. It is about the principle of whether the federal government can force religious organizations to take actions that violate their own faith and their own conscience.
Fortunately many of our fellow Americans of various faiths have also recognized the danger of this mandate and have begun to speak out in support of repeal. However, we need more voices to stand with Cardinal Dolan and the principles of religious freedom. In the coming weeks and months, there will be a major battle over our politicians must learn that they cannot ignore what Catholics think or believe in. It’s time for our elected officials to speak out against this devastating attack on our tradition of religious freedom.
If this mandate is not repealed, I believe there will be no stopping government intrusion and oversight of our faith based institutions. Is this a government for and by the people? I don’t think so. We believe American tax dollars should be going to help the deserving and needy, not used to violate our constitutionally protected religious freedoms and it’s time that we make our voices heard. That’s what our parents and grandparents did. We owe it them, to our country, and to our heritage.
LifeNews Note: Ray Flynn is the former Mayor of Boston, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican under President Clinton, and board member of Conscience Cause.