by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — The threat to religious liberty has Kansas Catholics seeing red, and the state’s bishops hope Kansas legislators will see a whole lot of the same on Feb. 17.
Fired-up Catholics wearing red, that is.
The Kansas Catholic Conference is putting out the call for Catholics from across the state — and especially those near and in Topeka — to come to the state Capitol at noon on Feb. 17 for a “Rally for Religious Freedom.”
And to make a point, the conference asks rally attendees to wear red. Rally speakers will include Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation.
In recent years, Catholics have seen an increasing number of threats to religious freedom, said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, the public policy instrument of the state’s Catholic bishops.
These threats include the contraception and abortifacient mandates in the Affordable Care Act, Catholic Charities being forced to cease adoptions in some states and the violation of the rights of small business owners to refuse service in instances that violate their conscience or contradict their faith.
The bishops are gravely concerned that a new threat to religious liberty has arisen in the form of a bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature this session.
“We don’t think it should be illegal to run an adoption ministry or a wedding business in accordance with Christian teaching on human sexuality,” said Schuttloffel.
“Yet,” he continued, “a bill that would make it illegal to decline complicity in a same-sex wedding ceremony or to only place adoptive children where they would have a mom and dad was given a hearing the first week of the legislative session.”
That threat is House Bill 2323, which would amend the Kansas Act Against Discrimination to include the words “sexual orientation or gender identity.” The bill also contains language that weakens religious accommodation. It was introduced through the House Judiciary Committee.
“We’re having this rally because Kansas is considering passing legislation pertaining to granting special protections to people who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender),” said Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for social justice.
“This sounds like a good thing,” he continued. “The church is against all forms of unjust discrimination, and our faith teaches us to treat everyone with love, kindness and respect. However, as we’ve seen across the country, these laws quickly become ‘weaponized’ and [are] used to discriminate against people who hold a traditional, natural law, biblical view of morality.”
Many Kansas legislators want to do the right thing, but they need to know that people of religious convictions will mobilize to protect religious liberty, said Scholl.
“As Catholics, we need to stand up to defend our right to practice our religion and not be worried about our institutions being turned against us to force behavior that our faith teaches is wrong,” he said.
Scholl is asking all parishes, schools and other entities that are organizing buses or vans to go to the rally to contact him at (913) 647-0317 or online at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The bishops are asking Catholics to stand with them. It’s important, said Schuttloffel, for faithful Catholics to respond to their call.
“We need as many people of faith as possible to come to the Kansas Capitol on Feb. 17 to show lawmakers that despite [the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges] decision, and despite the way the mainstream media portrays these issues as being some sort of historical inevitability, in fact, people of faith who believe in the authentic understanding of marriage are not going anywhere,” said Schuttloffel. “We expect our First Amendment free exercise of rights to be protected.”
Meet me at the rally
Time: Noon to 1 p.m.
Date: Wed., Feb. 17
Place: Inside the rotunda of the state Capitol in Topeka
Parking: Free parking at the Kansas Expocentre and round-trip shuttle to and from the Capitol is available from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Instructions: Wear red and come early. Be prepared for lines and some waiting as rally-goers must pass through security screening. Check the Kansas Catholic Conference for information about parking and the rally.
Be heard!: For information about how to contact your state senators and representatives, go to the Kansas Catholic Conference website at: www.kscathconf.org.