Archbishop Lori and the First Principle
Will the fight for religious freedom derail Obamacare?

Archbishop William Lori


Kathryn Jean Lopez

Confronted with a “train wreck,” the new archbishop of Baltimore implores us to “pray diligently as communities, as families, and as individuals.”

Coming from clergy, this wouldn’t necessarily be breaking news, except the train hurtling toward us is driven by the current president of the United States and his secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. Under Obamacare, the secretary has unprecedented power to make health-care decisions affecting every American. The recent HHS mandate — requiring all employers, regardless of moral objections, to offer health-care coverage that includes contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs — is the poisonous fruit of that power.

And so Archbishop William Lori’s prayer is for religious liberty.

It’s an ecumenical prayer that requires ecumenical labor. This talk of religious liberty “is not about the Catholic Church wanting to force anybody to do anything,” Archbishop Lori emphasized during a speech at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s conference on religious freedom. “It is instead about the federal government forcing the Church — consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions — to act against Church teachings.”

We are confronted today with a question of integrity, and it’s not only Catholics who are asking it, or who have a stake in the answer. The right to liberty is at the core of our national identity, and every freedom-loving American should ask: Do we value liberty as much as we say we do? People thirsting for freedom the world over have long seen America as a beacon. Are we the shining light they think we are?

It is only through complete inattention to this question of integrity that Georgetown University could have invited Secretary Sebelius to speak at a campus commencement ceremony. For this dereliction of moral duty, Georgetown surely wins this year’s audacity-at-commencement competition. At a moment that should be a radicalizing milestone for any American who values freedom, Georgetown chose to send a message of complacency. We have long been the place where people come to flee tyranny. But are we now comfortable with tyranny at home? This fight over the HHS mandate is much more than another LeftRight debate. It strikes at the core of who we are as Americans.

The 12 lawsuits recently filed against the Department of Health and Human Services are instructive. They came days after the Franciscan University of Steubenville announced that it would no longer provide student health plans. As a letter protesting the Obama administration noted, it’s “unacceptable” that the Ohio Catholic college found itself forced into this position — ending health coverage in order to honor its core religious beliefs.