Iowa Catholic Conference - Supreme Court rules on religious liberty, July 3, 2014

SUPREME COURT RULES ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

We hope you have a great Fourth of July holiday! This week began with a positive decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled that closely-held family corporations will not be required to provide insurance coverage for certain drugs. The Hobby Lobby stores had a religious objection to paying for drugs which may cause abortions.

The Court said the government failed to show that the mandate is the least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control. The Court also mentioned that the “accommodation” offered by HHS to certain religious organizations could have been a less-restrictive means.

Monday’s ruling by the Court did not decide the lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate from religiously-affiliated groups such as Catholic hospitals, universities and Catholic Charities. Those cases are expected to reach the Court next year.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated, “We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business. In this case, justice has prevailed, with the Court respecting the rights of the Green and Hahn families to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a culture that fully respects religious freedom.”

In related news, a coalition of leaders of diverse U.S. religious denominations and faiths, including Archbishop Kurtz, has announced that they “are united in [their] staunch support” for protecting the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in 1993. The coalition sent a letter to Congressional leadership June 30 asking that they “not amend or repeal RFRA, one of our nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of every person of every faith.”

The Fortnight for Freedom closing Mass will be live on EWTN from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on July 4 at 12:10 p.m. The Fortnight for Freedom is the U.S. bishops’ campaign for religious liberty.

USCCB CHAIRMAN ASKS PRESIDENT TO RECONSIDER POLICY ON RETURN UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon the Obama Administration, July 2, to reconsider its proposed request to Congress for “fast track” authority to expedite the removal of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America. Current law permits children from non-contiguous countries to remain in the country until their request for asylum or immigration relief is considered by an immigration judge.

“This is a very vulnerable population which has been targeted by organized crime networks in Central America,” said Bishop Elizondo. “To return them to these criminal elements without a proper adjudication of their cases is unconscionable.” 

The Iowa bishops had a statement on the issue last week, which you can find here.

Catholic Charities USA has an action alert asking Congress to ensure funding for the needs of these unaccompanied children and refugees. Catholic Charities agencies across the country provide wrap-around services to refugees ranging from interpretation and ESL classes to employment training and job placement. Here in Iowa, for example, Catholic Charities has resettled (or pending) 31 individuals in Waterloo, 13 in Columbus Junction, 24 in Cedar Rapids/Iowa City/Coralville/Hiawatha, two in Marshalltown, and 130 in Des Moines.

To send a message to your legislators on the issue, click here.

AND FINALLY, 

Keep up with the latest updates from the Iowa Catholic Conference on Twitter at www.twitter.com/iacatholicconf.

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