The crusade for religious freedom needs to continue

“Freedom” has been a constant theme in our country in recent weeks. We celebrated Independence Day
a couple of weeks ago, giving thanks for the many freedoms we as Americans enjoy in this country. On
that very same day, the Fortnight for Freedom concluded: a two week period whereby attention was
drawn to our continuous fight for religion freedom, a freedom which the federal government has sought
to redefine for Catholics and Christians all across this country. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the
case involving Hobby Lobby and two other for-profit companies was very important in the ongoing
battle for religious freedom. The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to
follow and live their faith when operating a family owned business is a great victory for religious

Without religious freedom, we cannot fulfill our duty as Christians. It is religious freedom that allows
committed Christians to live a life of true discipleship. When people are denied and hindered from
professing and living their religion or faith, human dignity is offended, resulting in a threat to justice and
peace. Faith plays a very important role for Catholics and all Americans who desire to work for the
common good of all as ordained by God. The freedom to practice one’s religion should not be limited to
a person’s home or place of worship. It extends into the public arena as well.

This decision for Hobby Lobby ensures that families who own and operate a private business will not be
required to leave their freedom behind as they walk through the door of their business. As was ruled in
this case, the Health and Human Services mandate coerces believers to act against deeply held religious
beliefs in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, and our long tradition of religious liberty. It
was unjust and unlawful. We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision. Justice has prevailed.

This decision was made, not from the standpoint of a First Amendment rights violation, but from the
standpoint that the HHS mandate violated rights guaranteed under the Religious Freedom Restoration
Act. It is a highly flexible legal standard that protects the rights and liberties of individuals of all
religious faiths who choose to enter into commercial activity, and the government does not have a free
hand in imposing obligations that substantially burden their exercise of religion. Written in the majority
opinion was “If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating
abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price — as much as $1.3 million per
day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not
amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would.”No company should be compelled by the federal government to engage in conduct that so egregiously

violates one’s sincere religious belief that life begins at conception. To force the owners of a privately
held company or any individual to participate in the abortion process against their deeply held religious
beliefs by providing abortifacients is clearly in violation of conscience rights and religious freedom.
This was an important decision, but we cannot end our efforts to build a culture that fully respects
religious freedom. As the USCCB stated in its press release, “The Court clearly did not decide whether
the so-called ‘accommodation’ violates RFRA when applied to our charities, hospitals and schools, so
many of which have challenged it as a burden on their religious exercise. We continue to hope that these
great ministries of service, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others, will prevail in their
cases as well.”

The current administration, unfortunately, believes that the Supreme Court’s decision was wrong, and
how it will respond to this decision is yet unknown. As we know, the battle over religious freedom does
not end here. It is far from over.

Following this decision, a coalition of leaders of diverse U.S. religious denominations and faiths,
including Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
sent a letter to Congressional leadership on June 30 asking that they “not amend or repeal the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act. Passed in 1993 with nearly unanimous bipartisan support, it is one of our
nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience for people of
every faith.”

As stated in their letter, “For over two decades, RFRA has protected Americans of all faiths from
government coercion. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others all benefit when
powerful government officials know that, as President Bill Clinton stated when he signed RFRA,
government must meet ‘a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of
“Changing RFRA because some disagree with one particular application of the law would set a dark
precedent by undermining the fundamental principle of religious freedom for all, even for those whose
religious beliefs may be unpopular at the moment. Congress has never passed legislation with the
specific purpose of reducing Americans’ religious freedom. It should not consider doing so now.
Freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, must stand for all Americans, for all time.”
Though justice has prevailed in the Hobby Lobby decision, we must continue to fight on for this
important freedom through prayer, fasting, and speaking out in word and action. Religious freedom is
necessary for a good society. In fact, the future of our society depends upon it. Our Lady of Perpetual
Help, pray and intercede for us.