The State of Religious Freedom in AmericaPosted by The Congressional Prayer Caucus | February 17, 2012
The state of religious freedom is at the forefront of national conversation as people across America attempt to process the stunning actions recently taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that pit religious freedom against compliance with a federal healthcare mandate, forcing people of faith to make a decision that infringes upon the religious freedom that our Founding Fathers robustly protected from our very beginning. Unfortunately, the HHS mandate is not an isolated incident; it is more of the same. Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, a bipartisan group of 103 Members of the House of Representatives dedicated to preserving religious freedom in America, will continue standing up against burdens on these inherent freedoms.
What People are Saying about the Mandate
Immaculate Contraception, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 13, 2012
“In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.”
Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action on Religious Liberty, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Feb. 10, 2012
“‘This thing is a distinction without a difference . . . . It’s an accounting gimmick or a fig leaf. It’s not a compromise.’”
Paul Ryan Denounces Obama’s Contraception Compromise as ‘Accounting Trick’, ABC News, Feb. 12, 2012
“A long time ago, the Catholic Church received a mandate from a higher authority . . . It is the mandate of Jesus Christ. . . . Catholic ministries for the needy are as blind to race, creed, class, and gender as Jesus Christ, their founder. That any one of them, much less all of them, should be forced to choose between the Gospel mandate and the U.S. government’s health care mandate strikes at the very heart of the right to religious liberty on which our country was founded.”
The Jesus mandate vs. Obama’s mandate, Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2012
More of the Same: Hostility Towards People of Faith and Religious Institutions
In the Armed ServicesAir Force Rapid Capabilities Office removes “God” from patch due to pressure from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Rep. Randy Forbes led 35 of Members of Congress in sending a letter calling for reversal of the decision.
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center prohibits the use of religious items during visits. Officials reversed the policy after meeting with Members of the Prayer Caucus.
Air Force Academy (AFA) rescinds support for Operation Christmas Child, a Christian charity that sends gifts to impoverished children around the world, saying only Christian cadets should have been notified of the opportunity to participate.
Air Force Chief of Staff prohibits commanders from notifying Airmen of Chaplain Corps programs.
Air Force suspends ethics briefing that includes Biblical and religious references following complaints from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The briefing included Biblical and religious references, and had been used for over 20 years.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) strips “God” from flag-folding ceremonies at veterans’ funerals. The VA backed off the ban shortly after Members sent a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requesting the policy’s reversal.
And Across AmericaLegislative bodies across the country are facing lawsuits for opening sessions with prayer. The Supreme Court recently declined to clarify the law on a county board’s practice of opening meetings with prayer. The lower court held the board’s prayer policy unconstitutional because it resulted in prayers that too often mentioned “Jesus.”
Vanderbilt bans religious student groups from requiring leaders to share the groups’ religious beliefs, and placed four religious student groups on provisional status for doing so.
New York City prohibits churches from using public school facilities; allows access to other community groups. Churches that have been meeting in NYC public schools for years held their final services on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012.
University dismisses counseling student from graduate program because of religious beliefs. A federal circuit court recently held that a university improperly dismissed a counseling student who had requested that a homosexual client be referred to another student because her religious beliefs precluded her from affirming same-sex relationships.
Officials remove “God” from certificates for flags flown over the U.S. Capitol. Capitol officials denied a young Eagle Scout’s request that a flag be flown over the Capitol on his grandfather’s behalf, and that the accompanying certificate reference “God.” The policy prohibiting “God” on the certificates was reversed after pressure from Members of the Prayer Caucus. Legislation was then introduced to prohibit future censorship.
References to “God” and faith excluded from U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Historical religious references such as the national motto “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance were excluded from the newly constructed Capitol Visitor Center. They were corrected after pressure from Members of the Prayer Caucus.
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