The bishops & religious freedom, the common cup

Broadly Speaking

As one of the lay consultants to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, I found particularly interesting and thought-provoking your recent symposium discussing the statement “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” issued by the USCCB in April (“The Bishops & Religious Liberty,” June 15). There seems to be a common misconception, however, that the bishops were specifically reacting to the HHS mandate requiring religious organizations (and others) to pay for contraceptive services and devices, including sterilization and potentially abortion-inducing drugs (such as the “morning-after pill”). But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as president of the USCCB, created this committee last year to address long-range and broad concerns that the voices of religious communities—of all faiths—are being marginalized in many debates about sound public policy.

The committee’s long-term focus is what the bishops and many other commentators perceive as a pervasive and often subtle notion that public policies that seem wise to legislators or administrators may be pursued without adjusting for the privileged place that the First Amendment’s “free exercise of religion” clause protects. As the bishops’ statement noted, this is not exclusively a Catholic issue but...

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