Conservative faith leaders of all stripes gathered on Thursday in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of religious freedom in America. This event is the latest in a series of developments that were sparked by the Obama administration's controversial contraceptive mandate. What started as a Catholic protest against the regulatory structure has expanded to include people of all faiths.
Little did the federal government suspect that its new regulations forcing religious groups to provide birth control free of charge would create such a wide-ranging firestorm among divergent faith communities. Religion News Service has more information about the collaborative effort that is underway:
Like-minded religionists of several denominations -- including Southern Baptist leader Richard Land and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori -- gathered in Washington Thursday (May 24) to organize a response to what they see as the sorry state of religious freedom in America today.
"We must all be willing to stand up and tell the government 'no,'" said Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Secularists don't like people of faith because the ultimate authority for us is not the state. The ultimate authority is God."
Sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center's American Religious Freedom Program, the daylong summit attracted conservative Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Mormons and others, almost all of whom painted a dismal picture of religious freedom.
While there were some stark calls, like Land's, for religious freedom protections, the 350-person group also called for civility in addressing liberty-related issues. The contraceptive mandate was the main topic on the agenda, but the faithful delved into other subjects that they fear could come under attack. These issues include the freedom for believers to abstain from workplace activities that contradict their views and for religious groups to continue to have the freedom to hire people they so choose.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration lost a Supreme Court battle surrounding religious employment issues. While the federal government sought to challenge the long-held ministerial exemption, the Supreme Court, for the first time, recognized its existence and constitutionality.
Considering these developments, there's no telling how faith communities will react throughout the 2012 campaign. While conservative churches may move against Obama, at least on policy (tax law forbids churches to advocate for or against candidates), more liberal faith supporters may rally around him. Either way, it seems the contraceptive mandate has rallied people of diverse faith views to at least come to the table and chat.
(H/T: Religion News Service)