Catholic bishops, energized by a battle over contraception funding, are planning an aggressive campaign to rally Americans against a long list of government measures which they say intrude on religious liberty.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to work with other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, on an election-year public relations campaign that may include TV and radio ads, social media marketing and a push for pastors and priests to raise the subject from the pulpit.
“We want to make it something that will get peoples’ attention,” said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.
The bishops spent the past few weeks pressing President Barack Obama to exempt religious employers from a federal mandate that all health insurance plans offer free birth control.
Obama agreed to modify the mandate a bit, so that religious employers wouldn’t have to pay for contraceptive coverage directly. That satisfied some Catholic groups, but the bishops were not mollified. They want the mandate repealed altogether.
And now, they are aiming higher still, lobbying Congress to enact a law that would let any employer opt out of covering any medical treatment he disagreed with as a matter of his personal faith.
So, for instance, a pizzeria owner who objected to childhood vaccinations on religious grounds would be able to request an insurance plan that did not cover them, in effect overriding a federal requirement that vaccinations be provided free with any health-insurance plan.
Leaving coverage decisions up to each employers’ conscience might create chaos in the marketplace, “but chaos is sometimes the price you pay for freedom,” said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who is backing the bishops whole-heartedly.
Democrats, who control the Senate, are likely to block any bill with such broad opt-out provisions.
But supporters, including prominent Republicans, say they will keep pushing for the change, which fits into a wider theme of defending individual freedoms against government intrusion which is expected to play prominently in the November election. [More]