by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — Will Catholics stand with their bishops? Do they care about defending their faith and their freedom?
The world will find out on June 29.
The Catholic bishops of Kansas are holding a rally from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on the south steps of the state Capitol on that date.
The event, which the bishops hope will draw Catholics from throughout the state, will feature a keynote address by Cathy Ruse, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Legal Studies in Washington, D.C., and called by Wired magazine “one of the most influential opinion shapers in the country.”
The rally is an unprecedented response to an attempt by the current administration to impose what some have called the most religiously oppressive government directive in modern American history.
“The bishops want to send a clear message that Catholics are not going to take the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on religious liberty lying down,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. “We fully understand the implications of what the administration has done, and I suspect that people . . . understand that this is only the first step.”
In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new regulations as part of the new Patient Protection and Affordability Act.
Despite assurances from the president that the conscience rights of Catholics and others would be protected, the new regulations instead trample those rights, resulting in a loss of Catholic identity for many institutions, heavy fines for others, greater difficulty in practicing the faith in the larger society, and a new definition of the church that effectively will lead to its marginalization and restriction.
“The Obama administration’s policy requires Catholic individuals and institutions to pay for products and services that they believe are immoral,” said Schuttloffel. “Catholic employers will be forced to provide their employees with health plans that cover contraception, sterilization and even abortion-inducing drugs.”
The threat to the church is very real, he said. The HHS mandate is already law and will begin to take effect for some businesses and Catholic institutions beginning Aug. 1. If anything, to this point Catholics have underreacted.
“The bishops want a restoration of governmental respect for the First Amendment and the principle of religious freedom,” said Schuttloffel. “We impose nothing on others. After all, the church has no force with which to bind. We simply do not want the government imposing a radically secularist ideology on us by using the coercive power of the state.”