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Fortnight For Religious Freedom
In April, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document titled, Our First, Most Cherished Freedom, outlining the bishops concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom. For this two-week period, beginning June 21 on the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, and ending on July 4, Independence Day, Catholics across the United States will join in prayer and various opportunities to take action to ensure the integrity of this most cherished freedom.
The Fortnight is part of the bishops coordinated efforts to mobilize Catholics in response to government attacks on religious liberty. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule forcing virtually all private health care plans to cover sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage.
The exemption provided for "religious employers" has been so narrowly defined that it fails to cover many faith-based organizations that help millions every year because the exemption only covers those faith-based organizations that primarily employ or serve those of the same denomination. Ironically, Jesus and his disciples would not have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith. Further, there is no exemption from the mandate for objecting insurers, secular employers, for-profit religious employers, or individuals.
The bishops have vigorously opposed the mandate on the grounds that the federal government is forcing the Catholic employers to provide coverage that is a contradiction of Church teachings and beliefs.
Bernard A. Hebda will open the Fortnight for Religious Freedom in the Diocese of Gaylord with a special Vespers service being held on June 21, 2012 at Immaculate Conception in Traverse City. The Holy Hour will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will include Exposition and Benediction. Everyone is invited. Bishop Hebda will also be celebrating Masses at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 23 and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 24.
Parishes are also being provided with resources and materials for use locally and a number of resources designed for personal and family prayer, study and reflection are available on this website by clicking on the Religious Liberty link on the left of this page. Activities and events in observance of the Fortnight will also be listed there as they are added.
In their statement on religious liberty, the U.S. bishops wrote, To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory and should instead by complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land.
To read the document by the Bishops or for more information regarding the Health and Human Services mandate or the Fortnight for Religious Freedom campaign, log on to the USCCB website