June 22, 2012

Be Our Guest / Dr. Hans Geisler

The struggle for religious freedom: A confrontation that must be won

Most Americans, not only Catholics, but also the majority of Christians, in addition to Jews, Muslims and others who are agnostic or atheist, agree that “religious freedom” is one of the basic concepts, if not the basic concept, on which the United States was founded.

That bedrock idea, placed in our Bill of Rights in December 1791 by our Founding Fathers, must be maintained and protected, whatever the cost.

To illustrate the importance of being strong in our opposition to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, here is a story from the late 1930s.

In March 1938, two physicians— the husband, Jewish, and his wife, Catholic—together with their daughter and son, escaped Nazi Germany “by the skin of their teeth.” They fled Germany because of this very issue of religious freedom and were able, by the grace of God, to immigrate to the United States.

The night before their escape, the father was brutally interrogated throughout the night and into the next morning by the Gestapo—the universally hated and feared, secret police, the enforcement arm of the Nazi regime that constituted the government of Germany beginning in 1933.

This family fled because the Nazis wanted to create a godless master race. They persecuted, tortured, killed and imprisoned Jews, the mentally or physically disabled, Catholics, Protestants and anybody else professing religious beliefs that did not correspond with Nazi dogma, and all who did not agree with the totalitarian concepts of Nazism and would not bow to the Nazis’ leader, Adolph Hitler.

In 2012 the only son of those two doctors, also a physician, is privileged to be the author of this article. His motivation stems from the fact that another government—the current federal government in Washington—by means of mandates, is attempting to take away our rights to religious freedom, the first freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights. That First Amendment states specifically that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The rights of Churches of all denominations, religious institutions, schools and individuals to “freedom of conscience” were “thrown under the bus” by Secretary Kathleen Sibelius of the Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 20.

So far, 43 lawsuits have been filed in 12 separate federal courts by Catholic dioceses, religious institutions, universities, etc. Many organizations and other entities, which are not Catholic, have expressed their support. These lawsuits are the beginning of the battle in which everyone who values the Constitution must be engaged.

We implore everyone to join in resisting the unconstitutional directives of the Department of Health and Human Services. In opposing the federal government’s infringement on our constitutionally guaranteed religious rights, we are not “waging a war against women” as the White House wishes people to believe.

Rather, we believe that the Founding Fathers had it right when they wrote and handed down to all Americans the amendments to the Constitution. It is up to us to fight for true freedom for every U.S. citizen, and insist on our right to follow the dictates of our consciences as formed by our Creator, Almighty God.

Our Founding Fathers were a delightfully unruly lot, consisting of men who espoused various belief systems. Despite their differences, they were determined that the American people should have the privilege of living their lives free from tyranny, according to their religious beliefs and the principles of well-formed consciences, without being forced to bow to ill and uninformed decrees imposed on them by an ever expanding federal bureaucracy.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, named after St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered by King Henry II over this very principle of “religious liberty,” is handling three of the lawsuits filed against the HHS mandate.

The attorneys for the fund have stated, “The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization. This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand. It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith, and [anyone] of conscience [to be forced to purchase] services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.”

Please join your fellow Catholics and citizens with other belief systems all over this noble country in showing your opposition to this unjust mandate. Stand up for religious freedom. Join the U.S. bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom!” from June 21 to July 4.

May God bless you, and may he bless the United States.

(Dr. Hans Geisler is a retired gynecologist-oncologist and member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. He is certified in health care ethics by the National Catholic Bioethics Center.)

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