The Main Speaker was my Pastor, Fr. Leonard Klein. Here is his speech.
"The US Conference of Catholic Bishops did not begin to be worried about religious liberty in America this past January. A committee had been assembled and functioning for some time. A large part of the reason was the health care bill, whose lack of adequate conscience protections was a source of deep concern. It is now plain that their concern was warranted.
But there are other issues as well. In their document “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” the Catholic bishops of Maryland – and that includes Bishop of Malooly of this diocese – list several in addition to the HHS mandate which was under consideration when they issued the statement:
* State immigration laws which would restrict the Church’s ministry to illegal immigrants.
* The restriction of the freedom of Christian groups on campuses
* The elimination of Catholic adoption and foster care programs for their refusal to place children with same sex couples
* The barring of small Protestant churches from renting space in New York City public schools, when all sorts of other groups are welcomed
* The termination of a contract with a highly rated Catholic program for victims of human trafficking because it did not provide contraception or abortion – as if these were what victims of the sex trade really need.
I should also mention the effort to impose a definition of Christian ministry on the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, slapped down by the Supreme Court 9-0 in the Hosanna Tabor case earlier this year.
Reports from other parts of the developed world are more chilling. In Canada, the bishop of Calgary, Alberta, among others has fallen afoul of the law for a letter gently reminding his flock of Church teaching on homosexuality. Four nations in Europe have outlawed kosher slaughtering – although they all have liberal access to abortion and one is a destination for assisted suicide. In England, Jewish law was ruled discriminatory when applied to the question of who might be enrolled as a Jew in a Jewish school.
The motivations are many, but the statism is egregious. All of these actions assume that the government is the proper arbiter of religious freedom and that the state exists not to guarantee liberties and protect the thousand gardens of civil society but to direct society. All of these actions assume that the annoying complexity of human religious and individual liberties must be subordinated to the judgment of enlightened minds in positions of power. Religious liberty – indeed all liberty – simply throws too much sand into the gears of progress. The image of a smooth running social and governmental machine is more precious than the little platoons of families, churches, communities, municipalities, and voluntary associations that are the real wealth and beauty of this nation and all decent human civilizations.
The mean-spiritedness of the HHS mandate provides a wonderfully crude example of the statist impulse I have just been describing.
Contraception is cheap. A monthly cycle of the pill will cost Sandra Fluke about the same as a good glass of wine in a Georgetown bar. Abortifacient morning after drugs can be purchased from vending machines on some college campuses. Condoms are handed out like candy. (Actually they don’t hand out candy so much any more; too much sugar is bad for you.)
The drugs in question are widely available, widely used, and often subsidized. Even sterilization is cheap as elective medical procedures go. Yet the mandate insists that such things be entirely free but not, say, life-saving blood pressure medicines. Kathleen Sebelius is knowingly picking a fight. The purpose appears to be to force the Catholic Church to line up with progressive views relating to sexual freedom and its necessary concomitants – contraception and abortion. The idea seems to be to pick off the big guy first so that the rest of you will fall in line.
The mandate is designed to bring the Church to heel and to warn all other voluntary associations against resisting the advances of the culture warriors of the left. And let’s remember that we did not start the culture wars. We were simply going about our business and practicing our faith, when they were unleashed upon us.
These threats to religious liberty and to all liberties arise from the notion that the smart people who run the government and constitute the progressive cutting edge should determine how the rest of us should live. But here’s the truth, so well understood by the founders but not at all by the advocates of the mandate: those smart people do not exist. These are the same people, after all, who still believe in the face of a 40% out of wedlock birthrate and the attendant social catastrophes that with enough contraception and abortion there will be only planned and happy children. Those smart people who can unfailingly direct civil society to good ends do not exist.
We have checks and balances and a Bill of Rights because the founders, though not terribly orthodox Christians, retained a lively view of original sin. They therefore had a deep mistrust of aggregations of power. They knew that no one was wise enough to rule. They knew that state power had to be divided and restrained. And when it gets too big for its britches, it must be fought. Or we will be ruled by the smart people in all their breath-taking arrogance and incompetence.