To celebrate the USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who’s in charge of the thing, has rolled out “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” an open letter denouncing Obamacare’s contraception mandate for businesses as a fundamental threat to religious liberty in America. Let’s just say that, based on the 100 or so signatories, an awful lot of the American religious community doesn’t see it that way.

With the exception of the president of Catholic University and Lori himself, the Catholic names — which make up over half the list — are all associated with institutions on the right fringe of American Catholicism. Places like Ave Maria University and the Franciscan University at Steubenville and John Paul the Great University.

There are the usual suspects from the conservative evangelical world: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and George O. Wood of the Assemblies of God. Plus the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the president of the Missouri Synod Lutherans and an LDS general authority. But there’s nary a mainline Protestant to be found.

The entire Jewish world, Orthodox included, has withheld the hem of its garment, with the exception of the rabbi who heads the far-right Caucus for America. All of Eastern Orthodoxy is likewise absent, except for the bishop of the tiny Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America.

There not a Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, or Hindu in sight, other than the Hare Krishnas’ Minister of Communication. But credit where credit is due: The National Public Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology is on board.

If you compare, say, the coalition that got the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed 20 years ago to Archbishop Lori’s “standing together” crowd, what you’ll see is the difference between a united front and right-wing flapping. The USCCB ought to be embarrassed. 

Categories: Politics

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


    • I know. This is the definition of a bigoted post. The prof doesn’t bother with facts, arguments, actions or consequences. Why would you need to do that??? He already has them pre-assigned to their bigotted roles. This is the definition of illiberal liberalism.

  1. In other words, since these guys are all “conservatives,” Mr. Silk doesn’t think what they have to say matters, and recommends that we ignore them, as well.

    And I thought the liberals were all about thinking for themselves.

    • Gosh. I am old enough to remember when liberalism meant you were supposed to be open to the experiences, perspectives and insights of other people, especially those that were considered unfashionable. Now, liberalism only means calling everyone that disagrees with you ignorant bigots.

      • Mark Silk

        Perhaps I did not make my argument clearly enough. Lori, on behalf of the USCCB, is claiming that the contraception mandate represents a general threat to religious liberty in America. But in this he has been able to garner the agreement of only a portion of the country’s religious players — those most identified with the Republican Party and opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Other players, including some that share moral positions with the bishops, did not sign the letter. By comparison, the RFRA coalition of the early 1990s included the full spectrum of religious bodies. The fact that Lori couldn’t persuade many traditionally staunch defenders of religious liberty to support his position is important empirical evidence against his larger claim.

        • Or it could mean the surrender of the mainstream Protestants on the defense of religious liberty. In the 1930’s, they surrendered on contraception. In the 1970’s, they surrendered on abortion. In the 2000’s, they surrendered on same-sex marriage. Why should religious liberty be any different?

          You claim that those “religious players” who did sign Lori’s letter are “identified with the Republican party.” One could just as easily argue that those who didn’t sign are identified with the Democrats and the current administration’s commitment to a statist agenda.

          • Mark Silk

            One could argue that, NurseBob, but one would be wrong. The Orthodox Jews and the Eastern Orthodox are anything but Democrats. Neither have they “surrendered” on same-sex marriage. Jews and other small religious minorities have always been strong supporters of religious liberty, and remain so, for obvious reasons. They just are not persuaded that religious liberty is at stake in the contraception mandate, the way they were when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Smith (written by Justice Scalia) in 1990.

        • First, the tone of your article clearly indicates that “these people’s” opinion should be disregarded based solely on the fact that they are giving it. It doesn’t get much more illiberal than that. If you are going to attack and marginalize a numerical and fashionable minority at least have the courtesy to address their arguments first.

          Second, there are numerous other factors that could mitigate your contention that this lack of support confirms Lori’s concerns are unfounded. To name a few, perhaps Lori’s effort is not well funded or or perhaps Lori isn’t good at his job. Or maybe the mainline protestant churches have fallen off a cliff over the last 20 years. Or maybe the american people are just more self absorbed. Maybe sin begets sin. Maybe the degradation of the culture over the last 20 years leads to fewer people valuing the ability to be faithful to a revealed religion. You write numerous posts proporting to speak for all people of good will and yet I see very few co-signers. Should I discount your arguments accordingly?

          • So lets see…because orthodox jews and eastern orthodox were not present at some press conference, this means that bishop lori’s claims have no merit. And these two groups represents what percent of the US population…uhhm …3%…maybe.

            if you want to do some academic work that on religion and politics, why don’t you study the correlation between liberal Christianity and eventual atheism? The two are inextricably linked. One always follows the other. If not for the individual, then for their (non-carbon footprint neutral) kids. Why is that, when liberalism is supposed to get us to the heart of the christian message…What is truth?…whoops …I mean love your neighbor.

        • Mr. Silk,

          My response addressed the Protestant mainlines specifically.

          Nevertheless, The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which includes the 65 Orthodox Christian bishops of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, made clear their opposition to the HHS mandate as an affront to religious liberty shortly after the mandate was announced.

          Jewish organizations that have expressed their opposition to the HHS mandate include the Orthodox Union and Agudoth Israel.

          Also, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, a religious coalition that includes Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslim, Jains, Jews, Mormons, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians, have expressed its opposition to the HHS mandate.

          It seems that there have been plenty of opportunities for Orthodox Christians, Jews, and others to express their opposition to the HHS mandate besides Bp. Lori’s letter, and it seems that they have taken the opportunity to do so.

          Are you aware of any formal statements from Orthodox Christian and Jewish leaders offering support for the HHS mandate?

          • Precisely, NurseBob. Those groups declared their opposition to the HHS mandate but nonetheless do not see it as the threat to religious liberty that Lori does. A difference over policy is a far cry from a charge of hostility to religious liberty.

          • Prof wrote: “A difference over policy is a far cry from a charge of hostility to religious liberty.”

            Does that same moderation also apply to the so called WAR ON WOMEN? Or requiring voters to show a photo id?

          • The claim of a “War on Women” is, in my view, hyperbolic–though it is beyond dispute that the spate of legislation establishing new criteria for abortion clinics has a lot more to do with restricting abortion than with assuring patients’ safety. As for photo i.d. legislation, there no question that this nothing to do with preventing voter fraud, which barely exists, and everything to do with limiting the ability of minorities to exercise their franchise. So if someone wants to charge a “War on Minority Voting,” that’s fine by me.

          • What do you tell the 50% of women who describe themselves as pro-life? Are they also hateful bigots pursuing a pernicious War on Women? Or do liberals hold a veto power over which women are real women? If you want to talk about a war on women, talk about the 750,000 unborn girls that will be burnt, poisoned or dismembered this year.

            When there is no oversight or enforcement its kinds of hard to prove that there is any fraud at all. By your logic, all of those mortgages from the early 2000s were based on solid appraisals and verified incomes because that as of 2007 everyone was performing. You need some form of id to drive a car or get on a plane. It is very easy to get a picture id.

          • The War on Women is more than hyperbole it is a complete mis-characterization. If you want to talk about the real war on women, talk about the millions of “missing” chinese/indian women who have been aborted. Or talk about how muslim women in many countries are treated like cattle. They are abused, can’t receive an education and have acid thrown in their face if they disobey. THAT is a war on women.

            But liberals will never make this war on women a priority because it challenges their world view. They could care less about the fate of these women because it might mean that each life is sacred and all cultures aren’t equal. Here again, rather them helping someone the liberals would prefer to side with Pilate and live by the motto “What is truth.”


    The LATimes editorial board adds its two cents.

    • wooo…the la times…they might actually still be employed at the end of the year.

      notice how the times didn’t mention anything about requiring transgender lockerrooms in schools (which already passed in California) or the AMA recommending that PEDIATRICIANS display prominent signs in their offices showing their support for homosexuality. The govt isn’t going to force religions to perform same sex marriages, they are going to do EVERYTHING but that. the next 10-15 years will be all about bullying adults and indoctrinating kids and redefining sexual identity.

      and as far as the other supposed kinards, England has no problem jailing people who speak out against homosexuality. why aren’t we following the same path? After all liberals always say that europeans are our moral betters.

  3. Also germane, the Catholic Health Association reacts to the final rules on the contraception mandate.

  4. I doubt seriously that the Archbishop gives a damn about women or their reproductive health needs. As I mentioned on July 3rd, I still think this entire thing has its roots in a desire to get a red cap.

  5. Do the U.S. Bishops care about the millions of Catholic women like myself who need birth control in order to treat an underlying, reproductive health problem?

    • Probably not, because to them it’s all black and white, which is why they are losing so many people so fast. They do not like in vitro or any form of artificial insemination, even if the couple is a married male and female. There comes a time when conscience prevails, and it’s okay to follow a physician’s orders if health and quality of life are an issue.

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