A recent article in the New York Times titled “Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion” discusses the “religious liberty battle” that Catholic bishops believe is “a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people.”
Laurie Goodstein, author of the New York Times article, writes, “The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.”
Government regulations dictate that recipients of taxpayer monies may not discriminate against particular individuals or groups of individuals. Certain Catholic organizations — although they want to receive taxpayer monies or have received taxpayer monies – do not wish to provide their services to homosexuals and unmarried couples who live together, for example, because of religious beliefs.
Some Catholic organizations and individual Catholics believe that particular governmental regulations ‘violate the consciences’ of those who wish to provide charitable services. Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. – according to an article in The Christian Post — believes that Catholics who do not wish to provide services to certain persons should “be respected” while others, and perhaps Lori himself, seek religious exemptions from certain laws.
Lori says, “Thus we seek protection by law and acceptance in our culture of intermediate institutions such as the family, churches and schools, which stand between the power of government and the conscience of individuals, all while contributing immensely to the common good.”
Blogger Hemant Mehta – the Friendly Atheist – explains, “When it comes to church/state separation, the #1 rule is (usually) pretty simple: if you’re getting taxpayer money, you can’t discriminate against a group for their race/gender/orientation/etc. for any reason. If you’re paying for everything on your own, go do what you want.”
In 2011, according to the Christian Post article, Catholic charities have refused to comply with governmental regulations dealing with receiving funding and have closed or otherwise have not received federal funds; “the Illinois dioceses of Springfield, Belleville, and Jolie announced the end of its partnership after 50 years of joint adoption and foster care services last month.”
Are governmental regulations threats to religious liberty, are religious organizations unjustified in seeking exemptions from the law because of religious beliefs or is another option an accurate depiction of what is happening?
As Mehta noted, organizations can discriminate if they wish, but they just can not do so while receiving taxpayer monies. Religious organizations are not being forced to close because they do not wish to comply for this is of their own volition.
Why should Catholic organizations be able to receive exemptions from the law when, for example, white supremacist charitable organizations may not discriminate against African-Americans if they receive taxpayer funding? When governmental regulations are concerned, everyone must ‘play by the same rules.’