Monday, July 8, 2013
Mark Silk is professor of religion in public life at Trinity College and writes over the Religion News Service . The day before the Fourth of July he through a bombshell at the Catholic Bishops Fortnight for Freedom which is dedicated to religious liberty. See his post Bishop Lori’s Odd Company .
I think the bombshell sort of fizzles into a firecracker but that is partly because I think he is missing the larger point.
Now there are several items about this article I wonder about. I am not sure why Mark Silk thinks Catholic Bishops hanging out with American Evangelicals is odd or " odd company" .
If you read the document he is quoting the coalition is a tad more diverse than he lets on. Could there have been more signers ? Well I guess so but it does represents varied different faith traditions. Including certain Holiness Pentecostal aligned congregations that by the way are some of the ones that are growing the fastest.
He ends by saying :
If you compare, say, the coalition that got the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed 20 years ago to Archbishop Lori’s “standing together” crowd, what you’ll see is the difference between a united front and right-wing flapping. The USCCB ought to be embarrassed .
He also notes that no one from the Mainline Protestant Churches have signed.
First , and I would assume Mr Silk is aware of this discussion , there is much talk that if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could even pass in today's climate and if such a coalition could even be had today. It does seem as a practical matter as to the HHS Mandate we are trying to ignore some of the plain language of the act.
However why is the Mainline so absent on the HHS Contraception mandate . Well the answer is they are not. There are good reasons the representatives of the Mainline did not sign the document. Not only are they for the HHS Contraception mandate their main Reproductive Rights lobby did not think it went far enough. That is it was a sad state of affairs it did not go into the four walls of the Church itself . See On Your Knees, Pro-Lifers (UPDATED) which looks at the comments of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice . Let us review who according to their own web site who is part of this Org. They are
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
American Ethical Union National Service Conference
Society for Humanistic Judaism
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Central Conference of American Rabbis
North American Federation of Temple Youth
Union for Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism, The Federation of Temple Sisterhoods
Women’s Rabbinic Network of Central Conference of American Rabbis
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
General Board of Global Ministries, Women’s Division, United Methodist Church
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
Young Religious Unitarian Universalists
Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Congress
Catholics for Choice
Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT)
Church of the Brethren Womaen’s Caucus
Disciples for Choice
Episcopal Urban Caucus
Episcopal Women’s Caucus
Jewish Women International
Lutheran Women’s Caucus
Methodist Federation for Social Action
National Council of Jewish Women
Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO)
Women’s American ORT
YWCA of the USA
Of course the always interesting question is the tail wagging the dog here. How many folks in these Faith Communities even know their Church is aligned with this a group. A group that finds any restriction on abortion as a sin again " Reproductive Social Justice " . That might be a interesting question to explore since Silk is talking about " right wing flapping "
So needless to say there are big reasons why so many Protestant Churches did not sign up for it. They see it as a matter of SOCIAL JUSTICE that women get this birth control. That trumps a person's religious liberty or the employers own conscious. On the other hand " this odd company " that the Catholic Bishops are in sees a threat though they have no problem with birth control at all.
This shows a major divide that is crucial in understanding this religious liberty debate.
We are also seeing this in the gay marriage debate. With heads of several Mainline Protestant Churches opposing any exemptions for a business to for example having to serve a gay wedding ceremony. This includes caterers , florists, wedding photo people , etc. The view is even in this one specific area the opposition to the Social Justice sin of discrimination again same sex couples in ANY FORM trumps a business owners own conscious and religious liberty. How successful they will be on this front remains to be seen. Even one veteran CBS Journalist seemed shocked this was going on .
Now of course this might change. The United Methodist are numbers wise one of the largest members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The UMC came within a hair of withdrawing from this group at that last convention. Something that would have happened if the supporters of the Coalition had not pulled every trick in the book to make sure that resolution went down to defeat. At the next Convention trends indicate they might be so lucky.
However Silk is on to something. Something has changed in attitudes since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed 20 years ago . What exactly is that and what does that bode for religious liberty protections. Especially since it appears one conscious rights are increasingly being trumped by a ever expanding list of social justice concerns promoted by some Churches.
Time will only tell if it will be the Catholic Bishops or perhaps others that will be embarrassed.