Roman Catholic leaders are calling for two weeks of public protests against President Barack Obama's policies as they intensify their argument that the administration is engaged in a war on religion.
The days between June 21 and July 4 have been set aside by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which has sought to end the administration's contraception mandate, among other policies.
The protests against the Obama administration’s policies could be “the game-changer” in the presidential election, one leading lay churchman told Newsmax on Tuesday.
The protests, dubbed “A Fortnight for Freedom” will be an “unprecedented, aggressive attack” against policies that church leaders see as an assault on religious freedom, said Catholic Advocate chairman Deal Hudson.
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“The bishops are seeing – rightly – a pattern of emerging of hostility towards the Catholic faith for upholding protection of the life of the unborn and because of its position on contraception,” said Hudson.
And Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League pointed out to Newsmax that the protests will come around the time the Supreme Court issues its judgment on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Unless the justices throw the act out completely, the protests could not be timed better, he said.
“If the individual mandate falls and the rest stands it will be more important than ever for Catholics to step forward and get involved,” said Donohue. “We will have to make the point that we are not going anywhere.”
Donohue said the mandate to make insurance companies cover not only contraceptives but abortion-inducing drugs is the key, he said. “It was done on purpose as a wedge to open the door. If we don’t fight it the next step is to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortion facilities,” he said.
“The idea that I as a Catholic should have to pay for some woman’s abortion makes me want to reach for the vomit bag.”
Donohue praised the bishops for their proactive stance “if for no other reason than to make the point that they are furious,” he said.
“Over the years there have been times when the resolve of the bishops wasn’t quite what we wanted it to be. Today that resolve is extremely strong,” he said.
The two weeks of protest has been called by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “That is not the type of body that goes out of its way to pick a fight,” Catholic Advocate’s Hudson pointed out.
“That is precisely what makes this so unusual a moment. The bishops have been provoked to such a degree that they will go to this extreme. They would prefer quiet negotiations leading to a principled compromise, instead they are talking about the probability of civil disobedience.”
Republicans are hoping the protests, planned for June and July will have a major bearing on the election which will follow four months later. They look forward to TV shots of robed priests and nuns being led away in handcuffs.
“These would be devastating images for the Obama administration,” GOP strategist Ron Bonjean told The Hill. “You have a very important religious demographic coming out in protest of Obama’s policies and being arrested for their expression.”
And Hudson agreed. When asked if the protests could be a game-changer come election time, he responded. “Potentially it could be the game-changer.
“It is a mistake to prognosticate with certainty this far out from the election, but two weeks of protest in mid-summer will help put this before the conventions and make it a major issue in the campaign.”
Hudson said Catholic Advocate has already been working in battleground states including Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to get its message across and is about to start work in New Mexico.
“At one meeting in Des Moines, we had about 80 people and one guy sat in the corner and at the end he raised his hand and said he had been a life-long social justice Catholic – so I was getting ready for the big smackdown on all the stuff we had been doing.
“But he said, ‘I’ve just had it with Obama.’ That was a moment that really got my attention.”
The bishops outlined their plan in an April 12 statement signed by Conference general secretary, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins. The statement entitled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” was drawn up by the ad hoc committee for religious liberty, which includes 11 bishop members including Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, one of Obama’s fiercest critics in the church.
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They called on fellow bishops to focus “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious liberty.
The dates were picked to run from the feast day of martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More to Independence Day. “This special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” the bishops said.
“Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”
It referred to the mandate that church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals, schools and universities would have to provide contraceptive coverage in their employees’ insurance policies as well as state and local moves that the church says affects its freedom.
“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home,” the statement said. “It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?
“What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.”
Hudson said that in many ways the statement itself is more important than the two weeks of action, but he accepted it would not get as much publicity.
“This is not something to get giddy about,” he said. “It would be sad if it came to priests or lay people or bishops being led away in handcuffs. What could be a sadder moment in the history of our nation than to see Catholics arrested for simply refusing to compromise on a central moral principle of their faith?”
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