by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
The sanctity of human life, marriage and family life, religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution lost a great defender and friend with the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The appointment of his successor could move our nation’s highest court even further along its recent path of arrogating to itself the right to determine our nation’s public policy on issues of such significant consequence as the legalization of abortion and, more recently, the redefinition of marriage.
In recent years, the court has usurped the right of the people by referendum or through their elected representatives to determine national as well as state policies on such fundamental social issues. The court has shown an alarming propensity to attempt to close off debate and shut down the democratic process to impose what it considers its own enlightened opinion on such neuralgic social policy issues.
On Feb. 17, the Kansas Catholic Conference, along with other faith-based organizations sponsored a religious freedom rally at our state Capitol in Topeka. The event exceeded my highest expectations drawing between 1,500 to 2,000 people, who filled the rotunda of the Capitol as well as the balconies above.
The rally featured an incredible lineup of speakers that included Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, who is one of the most insightful advocates for religious liberty and conscience rights. I highly recommend his most recent book, “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom,” if you want to understand the implications of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and its impact upon religious liberty and conscience rights.
Rally participants also heard from Pastor Hernan Castano from Houston, Texas, who with several other pastors had his Sunday sermons subpoenaed, in an effort to intimidate him into silence regarding the effort to enact a local ordinance making homosexuals legally a protected class. While on the surface this seems harmless, the effect of such a law would mean that the so-called “rights” of those with this legal status supersede the religious freedom and conscience rights of others.
Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (a co-plaintiff with the Little Sisters of the Poor in a case soon to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court), spoke eloquently about the devastating impact of Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandates requiring religious institutions and ministries to include in their employee health care programs so-called “preventive health services” that violate their own deeply held religious and moral convictions.
Similarly, Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., shared their efforts to resist the HHS mandates requiring her organization, whose whole purpose for existence is opposition of abortion, to provide abortifacients to their employees.
The most poignant speech was given by Barronelle Stutzman, who is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in the state of Washington. Barronelle is fighting lawsuits initiated by the state of Washington and the ACLU seeking not only to close her business, but to impose damages that would take her home, her life savings and her retirement plan. Why? Because she declined to do floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony!
Barronelle employs homosexuals and has provided for decades floral arrangements for many individuals with same-sex attraction. She considered the man, who requested the arrangement for his same-sex wedding, not only a valued customer but a friend. She recommended three other florists whom she was confident would gladly provide floral arrangements for the occasion. She declined simply because it was against her deeply held religious convictions to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Baronelle’s case illustrates that the civil recognition of same-sex marriage promoted on the basis of tolerance is being used to create an intolerant and hostile environment for the free expression of religion. Some advocates for same-sex marriage have made it clear that one of their goals is to coerce churches and other religious groups to change their moral teaching regarding homosexual actions. If they succeed, orthodox Catholic moral teaching, as well as biblical teaching regarding homosexual activity, will soon be considered a “hate crime.” If this happens, the consequences for our parishes and schools will be catastrophic.
During this election year, thoughtful citizens need to evaluate and seriously consider what kind of person presidential candidates will nominate to the Supreme Court. Since our country’s highest court in recent decades has taken on the role of imposing public policy upon the nation, we have to be much more conscious of those responsible for nominating and confirming candidates for the court.
This has also become a problem with our state courts as well. This past year, a Kansas judge claimed to discover a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. This particular case will soon come before the Kansas Supreme Court.
The Founders fought and died to bring to birth a nation where religious liberty and conscience rights would be protected and respected. Throughout our nation’s history, many others fought and died defending these most fundamental God-given rights. Are we willing to sacrifice and subjugate these fundamental liberties to recently invented “rights” that are a residue of the so-called sexual revolution of the late 20th century — a social experiment that devastated marriage and family life in our country?
Our nation faces many daunting challenges at this moment of our history. We can address and remedy all of them if we have strong families that form children to become virtuous citizens. Our Founders appreciated the importance of religion in fostering healthy families and cultivating virtuous citizens. In a representative democratic republic, we get the government that we deserve.
The choice is ours.