Let me tell you about it.
Religious tolerance and interfaith understanding are among the most cherished American traditions. Learning from parents and teachers — and from our leaders in churches and synagogues — about respecting the religious views and rights of others is a special memory for most older Americans. Regard for the religious conscience of others is also a value that we strive to pass on to our own children and grandchildren.
As Americans we also learned, however, that no right is more essential to the preservation of freedom – and no right more properly enshrined in the Bill of Rights – than freedom of religion and worship.
We were educated in stories of the Pilgrim Fathers coming here to America to escape persecution. We knew the story of Roger Williams founding the colony of Rhode Island so his congregation could follow the dictates of conscience. We remember George Washington’s moving letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport Rhode Island about a US government that will never “give sanction” to any form of bigotry or persecution.
Now, in a way that other generations might have found unimaginable, the federal government has moved against the rights of religious conscience. President Barack Obama’s recently ordered Catholic institutions to go against their religious conscience and pay for sterilization, contraception and “morning after” abortion pills.
So serious is this threat that The National Clergy Council, a Washington DC based group that represents church leaders of Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Protestant church traditions, declared “a state of emergency.”
In protesting this government attempt to force Americans to compromise their religious and moral beliefs the Council said in its Feb 22nd statement:
“In recent days, Jewish rabbis have joined all Catholic bishops in the United States in expressing alarm over the President’s ‘healthcare’ mandates and other violations of the Constitution. The National Clergy Council deliberated for the last week on what it would do, consulting pastors, moral theologians, organizational executives and activists from around the US.”
The council’s president, the Reverend Rob Schenck then decided to “ begin the holy season of Lent 2012” by hand delivering to the White House on Ash Wednesday an appeal to President Obama for answers to its “State of Emergency and Time for Speaking” declaration.
Speaking for the Council, Rev. Schenck said in his communiqué to the President:
“We state to you our unwavering position on the sanctity of our constitutionally protected right to espouse certain principles of conscience; and, we maintain and insist on our God-given, moral rights to act upon these principles of conscience within our respective institutions and in keeping with their attendant prerogatives; Furthermore, while we hope for a resolution to this crisis that includes the rescinding of your directives, we must hold to our convictions and positions and act according to our prerogatives no matter the legal, social, pecuniary, or political consequences.”
The leadership of the National Council is admirable. So too the Catholic bishops have spoken out heroically. And all across America priests and ministers are having their sermons interrupted by applause from outraged church goers.
What I want to know from you as a member of AMAC is this: “Should we leave this fight to others?
Or should we join these heroic clergy in their struggle to preserve one of our most essential American freedoms?”
Your answers to our recent poll on the issue tell me that you want to make this fight your fight – an AMAC fight for freedom.