Politics & Policy

Why Is the ACLU Suing to Stop Catholics from Sheltering Women?

Illegal immigrants detained near Mission, Tex., July 2014 (John Moore/Getty)

‘As you did it to one of the least of these,” Jesus told his disciples, “you did it to me.” So when 60,000 of the least of these crossed over the United States’ southern border last year, albeit illegally, faith-based organizations came to their aid, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, harboring the harborless. Thousands of children found themselves in the care of federally backed Catholic agencies, awaiting their date in court, or awaiting union with relatives in the country. They were strangers, and the Church welcomed them.

But that is not sufficient for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed suit against the federal government, requesting documents it believes (read: hopes) will show that Catholic agencies administered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have refused to offer contraception or abortions to unaccompanied minors in their care. “The Catholic bishops are taking millions of dollars in federal grants, and then imposing their beliefs on this vulnerable population who they are supposed to serve,” ACLU staff attorney Brigitte Amiri told Fox News. “That raises serious concerns under the separation of church and state provision in our Constitution.”

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One suspects it is a lost cause to point out to Ms. Amiri that no such provision exists. The legal basis for the ACLU’s complaint is, rather, an interim rule promulgated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in late 2014 requiring care-provider facilities to provide child victims of sexual abuse with “timely, unimpeded access to . . . emergency contraception,” and victims of sexual abuse who become pregnant with information about all available legal medical options, including abortion.

In February, the USCCB — joined by Catholic Relief Services, the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, Inc., and World Relief — penned a letter to the ORR arguing that the interim rule does not adequately provide for the rights of faith-based government contractors with religious or moral objections to providing certain services, and violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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#related#Furthermore, according to the USCCB, it’s simply unnecessary: “Indeed, over a period of several years, the USCCB has participated in the ORR program by serving unaccompanied minors without the constraints that the interim final rule would create. Yet there have been no reported problems in terms of services to clients” (italics original).

This whole situation may sound familiar. In 2009 the ACLU sued the Department of Health and Human Services for contracting with the USCCB to provide help to victims of human trafficking. The ACLU opposed the bishops on the same grounds. The suit was dismissed as moot in 2013 after the Obama administration refused to renew the USCCB’s contract.

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Contemplating the clergy and laypeople who have toiled to support these populations, one is tempted to follow their spirit of charity and attribute generous motives even to the ACLU. But, unfortunately, its motives appear precisely the opposite — because, evidently, the ACLU would rather bar faith-based organizations from receiving government aid to support vulnerable populations than allow those organizations to help in accordance with their religious beliefs. There is no guarantee that any organization can, or would, step into that role, if faith-based organizations were forced to vacate it. But the ACLU would prefer thousands of children, or women trafficked and exploited, be left untended, rather than be supported by an organization that will not countenance abortion.

The great conceit of abortion advocacy is that it is rooted in compassion for a vulnerable, victimized woman. But what the ACLU repeatedly makes clear is that its own advocacy is rooted in ideology — and it cares not a whit about who suffers as a result.

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