Activists gather to plot defense of ‘religious liberty’
U.S. Catholic bishops have used the Obama administration’s contraception mandate as Exhibit A in their high-stakes defense of “religious freedom.” But it’s not just the bishops who are fuming, and it’s not only over contraception.
Like-minded religionists of several denominations — including Southern Baptist leader Richard Land and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori — gathered in Washington Thursday (May 24) to organize a response to what they see as the sorry state of religious freedom in America today.
“We must all be willing to stand up and tell the government ‘no,’” said Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Secularists don’t like people of faith because the ultimate authority for us is not the state. The ultimate authority is God.”
Sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program, the daylong summit attracted conservative Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Mormons and others, almost all of whom painted a dismal picture of religious freedom.
Much of the rhetoric was less confrontational than Land’s, and several speakers from varying denominations called for civility in a debate that has, to some Americans, become unproductively shrill.
A March poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that a majority of Americans do not believe that religious liberty is under threat in this country.
“Civility ought to be the hallmark in the way we deal with one another,” Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told an audience of about 350.
The conference also honored Lori for his work as the Catholic bishops’ point man against the birth control mandate, which would require almost all employee health plans to include free contraception coverage for employees. [More]
RNS/The Washington Post