Today, I am Catholic.
Not because I necessarily agree with many positions of the Roman Catholic Church, but because I believe in religious liberty. There is no right more precious than the right to practice your religious beliefs. We enjoy the freedom of religion–not freedom from religion–as the first of our basic rights. Those who proposed the Bill of Rights correctly placed freedom of religion first. This freedom is basic and provides the ground work for all other rights and privileges.
But now, this freedom is being seriously challenged. The Obama administration has mandated changes which require religious institutions–but not churches yet–to provide health care for workers which include contraception, abortion-inducing drugs such as the morning after pill, and sterilization. All of these issues are fundamental to the Catholic conscience. To this point in American history, we have not faced this kind of opposition to the dictates of conscience. Even with the “accommodations” of the administration, this is a serious issue that should not be ignored.
To deny freedom of religion to some is to deny it to all.
I have dictates of conscience which are non-negotiable. I want Catholics and others to respect and appreciate those areas which are sacred to me. For this reason, today I am Catholic. I wish my Catholic friends to know that I stand with them in defense of the precious freedom of conscience.
Last week, I sat with editors of the largest Christian newspapers in Scandinavia. Remember, these countries still have a state church. Our freedom of religion is unique in world history. Why would we so quickly and easily give up our God given and God inspired freedom?
No one is threathening my freedom to preach–yet. But we already have school administrators and teachers who easily deny students the right to assemble and pray or even to bring a Bible to school. We have quickly lost something precious. If this is upheld for the Catholics, what will Baptists face?
Thankfully, we are not alone in upholding religious freedom. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod stated that “This action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets.” The National Association of Evangelicals held that “No government has the right to compel its citizens to violate their conscience. The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.” I am thankful for Christians and Jews who are standing for the principle of religious freedom.
Two years ago, I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. At the entrance are engraved the haunting words of German pastor Martin Niemoller, who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in Dachau.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Please forward this to your friends and call/write your senators and representatives. It is time for us to speak up for the Catholics.
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