Is religious freedom suddenly under attack in America? That's what the nation's Roman Catholic bishops and some non-Catholic allies would have you believe. But reports of the demise of this fundamental liberty are greatly exaggerated.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishopshas designated June 21 to July 4 as a "fortnight for freedom." During those two weeks, the church will trumpet its already well-known opposition to an Obama administration regulation that private health insurance plans include contraception services. The rule applies not to churches but to colleges, hospitals and charities that serve and employ non-Catholics. Even so, the bishops insist that it undermines their church's religious mission to serve the larger community without compromising its beliefs.
The bishops are free to argue, including in court, that the contraceptive mandate is a violation of the church's rights under the 1st Amendment and a 1993 federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (This page disagrees.) But some of the church's rhetoric has been shrill and simplistic. One bishop compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin, who, "at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and healthcare."