After the Hobby Lobby case

Hobby Lobby supporter Arina Grossu reacts to the U.S. Supreme Court decision June 30 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled in a 5-4 decision in favor of Hobby Lobby saying that some private companies can be exempted, on religious grounds, from health care reform's requirement that employer sponsored health insurance policies cover contraception. — Credit: CREDIT: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

The U.S. Supreme Court made a good decision this week in recognizing that Hobby Lobby’s owners can follow their religious beliefs and conscience in running their family business. 

The court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was narrow and specific to smaller, family-held businesses. 

The justices did not resolve the broader issues raised by our government’s demand that most U.S. employers provide birth control, abortion and sterilization coverage in their health care plans. 

The government’s mandate has always been about more than birth control and abortion. 

In fact, Hobby Lobby has long offered contraception coverage to its employees and it will continue to offer this coverage, although these facts are not being reported in many media outlets. 

But the bigger questions raised by the mandate involve the government’s power and the role of religion and faith-based institutions in American life. 

Some of these questions are: 

— Is religion just something personal that we “do” at home or in churches, temples and mosques? Or is religion a way of living that guides and directs everything we think and do? 

— Can the government demand that we abandon our religious convictions as the “price” we must pay for participating in America’s economic and political life? 

— Do religious institutions have to give up their religious identity in order to carry out their mission in society? 

These are questions that have great implications for America’s future, for our freedom as citizens and believers, and for the Church’s mission in American society. And they are questions that every one of us — as believers and as citizens — need to reflect on.  

Our country has always been distinguished by its commitment to religious liberty and freedom of conscience. 

This has led to a society that is incredibly diverse and that allows people of many different lifestyles and viewpoints to live together in peace. 

The public witness and good works of religious people and religious institutions has shaped our social fabric — in areas ranging from education and health care to charity and the defense of civil rights and social justice.

And American society has always respected the role that religious institutions play in providing vital services in our society — to the poor, the homeless and the immigrant.  

There has always been a good partnership between the government and religious institutions. Our ability to cooperate for the common good has always depended on religious institutions having the freedom to be who we are. 

But in recent years, we have been finding that the government is trying to pressure religious institutions into offering programs and services that are contrary to their religious mission and moral teachings. 

Many Catholic institutions, including charities, hospitals, universities and independent Catholic organizations have challenged the government’s contraception mandate as a violation of their religious liberties. 

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court did not take up those objections, which are being addressed in separate cases pending in lower courts.  

But the court did find that the government’s mandate violates a long-held American tradition that protects individuals from being forced to do things that violate their conscience. 

The court noted that we have policies that protect people who do not want to perform abortions or to assist in suicides or participate in capital punishment. 

But with the contraceptive mandate, the government is now saying that its programs and policies should take priority over religious convictions, no matter how deeply held. 

And this is a dangerous development in our democracy. 

Justice Samuel Alito seemed to recognize this in his opinion for the Supreme Court majority. He said that the government’s logic would require companies to pay for assisted suicides and third-trimester abortions in states where these practices are legal. 

For now, the Supreme Court has rejected this logic as an intrusion on the fundamental religious liberty of small businesses such as Hobby Lobby. 

But as we celebrate our nation’s founding this week, we need to pray for our neighbors and for our nation’s future. 

On this 4th of July, we need to thank God for the blessings of liberty. We need to commit ourselves to restoring and renewing American culture and civil society. We need to work for an America that respects the place of religion and protects the fundamental right of all men and women to seek the truth and to live according to their beliefs. 

So let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to bring about a new birth of religious freedom in our land, so that we might live as one family and share the blessings of our freedom with others, working together to build a society of truth and justice.  

Archbishop Gomez’s CPA Award-winning book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez. 


Voices

Iowa and us in a Year of Mercy

Kathryn Jean Lopez

It was in the general-purpose room of St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Des Moines that Donald Trump made his last pitch to Iowa voters, inside a caucus room. He wanted to make sure people remembered that not only will he build the wall on our border with Mexico, but that he’s the only candidate who will make Mexico pay for it.

Events

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February 6, 2016

  • Saturday, February, 6

    Second Annual Sisters of Notre Dame Nun Run 5K & 1-Mile Fun Run, 8 a.m., Hosted by the Sisters of Notre Dame and La Reina High School and Middle School in Thousand Oaks. Course starts on Dover Avenue in Thousand Oaks and finishes in front of La Reina School. Open to runners and walkers of all ages and ability levels. Professional chip timing technology will be provided to 5K runners by Vendurance Sports. Participants will receive a free T-shirt (while supplies last); pancake breakfast available after the race. Pre-registration is $35 per person for the 5K, and $25 for the 1-Mile. All proceeds support the Sisters of Notre Dame Life and Ministry Fund, allowing the sisters to continue their ministries in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. For more information, contact Chloe Vieira at cvieira@sndca.org, or visit sndca.org/nunrun. 

    Math Competition for Middle School Students & Problem-Solving Workshop for Teachers, 7:45 a.m., Don Bosco Technical Institute, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead.A mathematics competition for fifth through eighth grade students. The 44th annual event will offer awards for the highest scoring individual and teams. Participants must register by Feb. 2 atwww.boscotech.edu/events. Space is limited. The cost is $8 per individual and $5 per person for teams of four or more, up to 15. Check-in begins at 7:45 a.m.; one-hour test starts at 9 a.m. Free activities offered and food available for purchase. Award ceremony follows the competition at 11 a.m. For more information, contact Valeria De Luna at MathCompetition@boscotech.edu.

     

    San Fernando Regional Day of Prayer for the RCIA, 1 - 4:30 p.m., St. John Baptist De La Salle Church, 16555 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills. An afternoon of prayer for those who will celebrate the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion this Lent. Catechumens, candidates, sponsors and team members will come together in prayer with Bishop Joseph V. Brennan. To register or for more information, contact Sandy Cole at (818) 368-1514 or dre@sjbdls.org.

     

    Second Annual Valentine's Dinner/Dance, 7 p.m., St. James School - O'Gorman Center, 4625 Garnet St., Torrance.Dance music from the 50's to the present; $20 per person. Proceeds will benefit our seminarians. For more information, call the parish office at (310) 372-5228, or Ely at (310) 944-3355.  

     

    Snowflake Swing Dinner/Dance, 6 p.m. to midnight,St. Francis of Assisi Church, 1523 Golden Gate Ave., Los Angeles. Great food, door prizes and dancing (assorted music), featuring the LA Trio. Tickets $25; RSVP by Feb. 2. For reservations, call Liza at (323) 664-1305 or Renee at (213) 413-3036. 

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