The Edmond Sun

June 19, 2013

Catholic leaders mark Fortnight for Freedom

Pending Supreme Court decisions concern religious groups

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — Local Catholic leaders are calling for believers to join an interfaith prayer campaign promoting renewed respect for life, traditional marriage and religious liberty.

On the eve of a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding same sex marriage, and the Aug. 1 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, which forces employers to pay for contraceptive services despite their religious and moral objections, U.S. bishops called for the second annual Fortnight for Freedom June 21-July 4.

The prayer campaign formally begins with a Mass at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3214 N. Lake Ave., Oklahoma City. The homily will be delivered by Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, who will be joined by Catholics from across the archdiocese.

Coakley said the campaign’s goal is to secure religious freedom, which is needed to serve the common good without violating religious principles. Obeying Christ’s command includes providing charitable ministries in health care, education and serving the poor — all without compromising Catholic beliefs, Coakley said.

“The long-term effects on religious liberty and conscience rights of such court rulings will be far-reaching for our Catholic institutions, as well as for many other institutions,” Coakley said.

During the fortnight, bishops and lay Catholics aim to renew opposition to the so-called “contraception mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as a part of the implementation of the 2010 federal health care reform law.

The mandate requires employers to provide their employees with health insurance plans that cover contraception and abortifacients — regardless of whether those employers consider contraception and abortion to be morally wrong.  

Organizations opposing the mandate on moral grounds have included Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based retailer owned by the Green family. The Obama administration stated that “for-profit, secular employers generally do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.”

Coakley said in American society there has been a tendency to equate religious liberty with the freedom to worship.

“Religious freedom certainly includes this freedom, but it is much more. It also includes the freedom for private individuals to live their faith in the workplace and in the public square and to advance the truths and values that flow from faith publicly,” Coakley said.

Regarding marriage, in December the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case challenging California’s Proposition 8 and a case challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, which defines marriage in California’s State Constitution as the union of one man and one woman. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected soon. Depending on the ruling, there could be ramifications for marriage laws throughout the country. | 341-2121, ext. 108