Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, head of the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other Catholic dioceses and organizations have announced that they are suing the Obama administration for violating their First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
According to CNS News, the dioceses and organizations, in different combinations, are filing 12 different lawsuits in federal courts around the country.*
This may be a necessary step to undo the unprecedented unconstitutional intrusion into freedom of conscience caused by the regulation that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last August, and finalized in January, that requires virtually all health care plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that can cause abortions.
But is suing the Obama administration all that is necessary?
To back-up the lawsuits, what is really needed to undo the damage and make sure that it never happens again is the moral leadership that the clergy and Church hierarchy offer in their day-to-day ministries and Sunday morning sermons. However, the Church leaders have yet to bring that powerful force to bear against the Obama administration’s unconstitutional actions.
Church leaders must identify, and publicly oppose the source of their persecution, not leave the job of making the case for the rightness of their cause to their law firm.
For some church leaders, exercising such leadership won’t be easy. Those who long ago bought into the idea of the goodness of the welfare state may have a hard time accepting the fact that the oppression they are now suffering is merely the welfare state carried to its logical conclusion by President Obama.
Cardinal Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement, “We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there's still no fix."
Cardinal Dolan stands out as one religious leader who has recognized the danger in the Obama administration’s health care mandate from the beginning and spoken against it, but he should recognize that there can be no negotiating with those in the Obama administration who are bent on coercing their fellow citizens into the liberal utopia Obama has promised.
Suing may be necessary to protect the Church’s assets, but it is not, by itself, leadership. In modern America, when faced with other great challenges to its teachings, the Church and its leaders showed their leadership through personal example and action.
That means preaching, being at the forefront of vigorous public campaigns in favor of the right-to-life, and through organizing the faithful to demonstrate their opposition to immoral government policies -- as church leaders did in support of civil rights legislation when they declared segregation a moral wrong. The campaign to end the Obama administration’s unconstitutional invasion of freedom of conscience deserves that same kind of leadership.
Those church leaders who once thought Obama’s promise of change wouldn’t affect them must get on the side of Constitutional government now. If they put their moral authority and leadership publicly out front, they will show Americans that they understand that the loss of freedom of conscience threatens all of our other freedoms, and they will find millions of Americans – believers and non-believers alike – on their side.
* The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has established a website, preservereligiousfreedom.org to explain the lawsuit against the Obama administration, publicize its positions and inform interested parties of the latest developments in the case.