Bishops, archdiocese continue campaign for religious liberty


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ABSTRACTBishops, archdiocese continue campaign for religious liberty | St. Louis Review Skip to Navigation St. Louis Review Search: Archdiocese of Saint Louis Twitter Facebook RSS Bishops, archdiocese continue campaign for religious liberty Submitted on September 26, 2012 Printer-friendly version Send to friend Jennifer Brinker | jbrinker@archstl.org Peter Wohlstadter, a student at The St. Austin School, took one of the yard signs being distributed after praying the Rosary for liberty at the Cardinal Rigali Center on Sept. 14. LISA JOHNSTON | lisajohnston@archstl.org When Pope Benedict XVI met with bishops in Washington, D.C., during a visit to the United States in 2008, he posed a question: "Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?" The question -- and his answer -- were prophetic. "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted," he said to the bishops. "Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel." Since the pope's visit, the issue of religion in the public sphere has emerged as a topic of great importance. The bishops have been very outspoken about the threats to religious freedom in this country -- most notably the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires almost all private health plans to provide coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations. Here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the efforts to safeguard religious freedom continue. A group of local lay Catholics have produced yard signs promoting religious liberty. The signs feature the American flag and eagle. Mary Beth Rolwes, a member of St. Clement of Rome Parish in Des Peres who helped organize the effort, said the group came together and asked, "What can we do?" A Rosary crusade was first suggested. Signs are currently out of stock, but more will be available in early October. They will be available free of charge during normal business hours at the Cardinal Rigali Center, 20 Archbishop May Drive in Shrewsbury. Signs can be picked up at the front desk of the main entrance. The Rosary also is being prayed in the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel at the Cardinal Rigali Center every Friday from 4-4:30 p.m. through Nov. 16. "It became clear that during this election it's essential we preserve religious liberty, given the HHS mandate," said Rolwes. Rolwes noted that former President Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." "We can't take these things for granted," said Rolwes. "If we let go of this freedom, it's going to lead us down a slippery slope." Karen Nolkemper, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, said the office is asking for people to keep four things in mind when it comes to the campaign for religious liberty: pray, participate, vote and volunteer. (See related information, next page.) In September, religious liberty proponents celebrated a huge victory when the Missouri legislature overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of SB 749, the religious liberty bill. The law ensures that no one is forced to pay for abortion drugs and similar items in their health insurance when it violates their religious beliefs. The Associated Press has reported that the new law may represent the first state law passed in the United States that is a direct rebuke to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) contraception mandate. Nolkemper noted that the override -- which received exactly the 109 votes needed in the House -- "truly was a team effort from both parties. I am grateful that the legislators took this issue seriously and protected one of our greatest freedoms – religious liberty." The law, however, already is being challenged in court. Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said, he's "looking forward" to Attorney Chris Koster defend the law as it comes before the courts. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson this week sent a letter to Koster, urging him to defend the law. Hoey described the federal HHS mandate as a "bureaucratic rule," adding that the Missouri law was written in conformity with the First Amendment. He said the mandate to cover contraception wasn't even something authorized as part of the Affordable Care Act. "The act has a provision authorizing the department to provide preventive services -- but it didn't say anything about contraceptives and abortion drugs. The Department (of Health and Human Services) came up with that," said Hoey. "The federal Constitution trumps the HHS mandate, and that's what we think the courts are going to find. And the Missouri law is going to be upheld as good law." There still are many opportunities to learn more about the HHS mandate and religious liberty. The Respect Life Apostolate's speakers series on religious liberty continues through .......