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From the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally

Posted By July 12, 2012 | 11:30 am | Commentary
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This is  a series of articles prepared by the speakers at the June 8 Standup for Religious Freedom Rally held at Worcester City Hall Plaza.

HOW HHS MANDATE AFFECTS CATHOLIC BUSINESSES

By Vic Melfa

The HHS Mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from the federal Department of Health and Human Services affects Catholic businesses in three main ways:  it increases taxes, increases regulations, and forces employers and their employees to purchase goods and services that are against our moral convictions.
A.  Obamacare contains 20 new or higher taxes on American families and employers. The federal government should not be able to force people to purchase something they don’t want, and then use the IRS to force them to do it. Increased taxes leave businesses less money to expand and hire people.
Of these 20 taxes, the four that hurt businesses the most are:
1.    The Medicare payroll tax for most of the self-employed and general partners or owners of S corporations will increase by 31 percent.
2.    In 2013 the surtax on investment income will increase more than 20 percent. This includes some profits and also the income of investors, making it harder for businesses to raise money to create jobs and expand business.
3.    The 2014 employer mandate for firms of 50 or more employees includes an excise tax of $2,000 per employee per year if an employer fails to provide “qualifying health insurance.” Even if a business provides health insurance, it can be deemed “unqualified” by HHS. This could be a farce like the “religious institution exemption.”
4.    In 2014 the individual mandate will affect many self-employed people who choose not to have health insurance but rather self-insure or retain capital in their businesses. Everyone must obtain “qualifying” health insurance, or pay an additional tax of at least 2.5 percent of their income.

B.  In addition to taxes, there are four major ways Obamacare regulations hurt businesses.
1.    The employer mandate is full of costly, confusing, and arbitrary penalties for businesses. It actually has incentives for laying off people, and is full of time-consuming red tape, threatens privacy, exposes employers to liabilities and legal disputes, and complicates hiring.
2.    The structure and process of the mandate increases the cost of insurance, compounds state versus federal problems, and is unclear on defining so called “essential” benefits.
3.    The 1099 requirement is froth with the red tape of collecting receipts, withholding taxes and paying more bank fees.
4.    Excessive and arbitrary HHS waivers granted to hundreds of companies and unions is unfair and grandfather restrictions will force many companies to replace or drop comprehensive insurance coverage.

C.  In addition to these increased taxes and regulations, Obamacare forces employers and their employees to pay for goods and services against their moral convictions.
In addition to the lawsuits by religious institutions, businesses are now being forced to sue the government. After the first company sued in May, Legatus, the largest organization of Catholic CEOs with over 4,000 members in 73 chapters throughout the country, filed suit. The first paragraph of the lawsuit summarizes the issue: “This is … about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, … when describing … our Constitution proclaimed, ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to a man than that which protects the rights of conscience against … civil authority.’”
The Thomas More Law Center that filed the suit said, “Whether you are a Catholic or Protestant or have no religion at all, the free exercise of religion and right of conscience is our most fundamental human right and must be vigorously defended on behalf of all Americans.  Or else our Constitution becomes nothing more than a piece of paper with nice sounding words.  That’s why we believe every American regardless of religious beliefs has a stake in the successful outcome of this lawsuit.”

– Mr. Melfa, picture above, is the CEO of The Training Associate in Westboro, provider of IT and professional business skill instructors.

 

GROWING UP IN A COMMUNIST COUNTRY

By Msgr. Anthony Czarnecki

In 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany led by a possessed man, Adolph Hitler.  Five years later, in 1944, after leaving millions dead and completely destroyed cities and towns, the Nazi occupation was over but Poland had fallen under the Russian Communist regime.
This inhumane system held this old Christian nation in its grips for 40 years. The system made a lot of promises, in fact its constitution, which was enacted in 1952, promised all citizens freedom of conscience and faith.  It proclaimed that the Church and religious organizations could conduct religious functions and nobody would be forced to participate, or not to participate, in any religious events.  In addition, the Communists, in Article 71 of their constitution, promised freedom of speech, print, gatherings and demonstrations.
Unfortunately, these were only words; the practice was entirely different.
In 1945, the systematic planning of how to deal with the Catholic Church was introduced.  The first clear action was the breaking of relations with the Holy See and its concordat which was established in 1925.
In 1948 the persecution of the Church was clearly evident –  every parish, priest and bishop was under surveillance. In that year they arrested over 400 clergy.
In 1950 they eliminated Church-affiliated charitable organizations called “Caritas.” At that time, the “Caritas” had over a 1,000 institutions and employed over 30,000 people in Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc.
At the same time the Communists founded a new organization, ironically called the Association of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy.  This cynical name was a cover-up for consistent, planned actions to destroy the Church by turning priests against bishops and people against priests. As a result, many bishops and priests were arrested and about 40 priests were killed.
The most brutal act of the Communists was the arrest,  of Cardinal (Stefan) Wyszynski in 1953. He openly disagreed with the mingling of the Communist regime in Church affairs such as the assignment of priests and the appointment of bishops by the government. The cardinal’s imprisonment was followed by removal of religion classes and symbols from the schools, hospitals and orphanages. Also they relentlessly pursued the liquidation of the religious orders of men and women.
In 1959, the Communists introduced a mandatory military draft of seminarians.  General (Wojciech) Jaruzelski, who is still alive, stated to his troops: “You have to convince these seminarians that the role of the priests is counterproductive to a society and awaken in them a new faith in the ideals of Communism and its achievements.”
At that time they began brainwashing activities with the focus on the youth.  They promoted atheism as a new, progressive and stylish way of living. Through all these times various activists, whether lay or religious, who practiced their faith, were arrested and jailed. Some were killed.
The Communists focused their efforts on spreading propaganda that in Western countries the factories, businesses, etc. belonged to private individuals – called capitalists – who took advantage of the working class. In the Communist system, they claimed, all factories and land belonged to the people. As a result the government nationalized private businesses by taking away their land and possessions and leaving people with little to survive on. They created class warfare – turning people of lesser means against those who had money. They made them believe that the enemies are not the Communist government but the private business owners and people-of-means. It became a common belief that those who had money must have generated it by exploiting others – that no money was made honestly.
Since the government owned everything, people began relying on government to provide for them. This in turn, killed the spirit of entrepreneurship and brought the Polish economy into deep recession and eventually Marshall Law, in 1981, when the food and basic necessities were rationed with special coupons for meat, butter, rice, flour, soap, oil, laundry detergent, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
When the government was asked: “Why is there so much misery if we, the people, own everything?” the answer was that this was because many people still did not follow the Communist principles and some were even involved in foreign government service.”
Therefore, quite often, whoever was uncomfortable with the government – be they bishop, priest or lay person – they were frequently accused of espionage, tried by the court of law and forced to admit guilt. Then, they were sent to jails for re-education or were killed or simply disappeared from this earth. They were portrayed in the media as traitors to the society.
The average person could not advance in their career unless they joined the Communist party. Once they joined, they were forbidden to attend church services, baptize their babies, marry in the Church, etc. Many however, continued secretly practicing their faith, but those who were caught, risked going to jail and other harsh consequences.
To obtain total control of the society the Communists secretly recruited individuals to spy on fellow citizens and this special agency became the largest employment group.
In the Communist regime there were no objective values such as truth, faith and justice. The only values that were accepted were those that supported the status quo of the government.  The court of law did not serve justice but it was an instrument of enforcing the establishment.
The hardship of day-to-day living forced many people to lie, break laws and as a result create a culture of suspicion, deception and mistrust amongst society, neighbors and even family members and therefore made a long-lasting tremendous damage to the psyche of people.
In the Communist system values such as faith, truth and justice were relative and were imposed by either military force or legislation. It is clearly evident that without the transcendent moral standards, such actions eventually led to chaos and anarchy. And since human beings cannot live in anarchy, tyranny is a natural consequence.
Communism deprived humanity of their relationship to God and man was left alone as an architect of his life and as the only one who could determine what was right or wrong, good or evil.
The moral challenges facing our country now are not caused by political affiliation, economic crisis, but rather by attacks on religious freedom as evident in recent legislation on the health care issues.
Any legislation, whether done by Parliament or president, which advocates same-sex marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, and especially abortion of the most innocent human beings, exceeds its legislative competencies and places itself in conflict with the law of  nature and of God.
The present administration of our country through its healthcare legislation denies the freedom of conscience and is dictating how the Church should provide services to the faithful.
If this philosophy is adopted by our country, it will have devastating consequences.  The false humanism of the freedom leads first to freedom decay and then to freedom demise.
History has a tendency to repeat itself and the Communist regime in Poland and its consequences should serve as a stern warning to our country.

 

 

 

IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY
By Father Richard Reidy, pastor St. Ann Church, N. Oxford

As Americans we are blessed to live in a country founded upon the self-evident truths that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is to secure, not grant, these rights that governments are instituted. We are blessed that ours is a government of laws, not men, and that our Constitution was ordained and established to, among other things, secure the blessings of liberty.
These liberties were not won without a cost nor have they been preserved or extended without a price.
Similarly, our Constitution was not adopted and ratified without controversy and debate.
Here in Massachusetts, during the 1788 state convention that debated the proposed Constitution, Sam Adams, that firebrand who helped spark the revolution 13 years earlier, was initially very much opposed to the Constitution. He feared the Constitution created too strong a federal government that might trample the rights of states and the liberty of citizens. Only with the assurance of a Bill of Rights did Sam Adams support the Constitution while Massachusetts narrowly ratified (187-168).
After other states expressed the same reservations and sought similar assurances, the Constitution was ratified. And the following year, on this very day, James Madison proposed to the first Congress, the Amendments to the Constitution that would become what we know as the Bill of Rights.  The first of which – before the freedom of speech, or the press – was the freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Notice that the First Amendment isn’t limited to the freedom to worship – it’s broader than that. The First Amendment  proscribes the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. And that’s terribly important. For Jesus didn’t just say, “Love God and keep the Sabbath. But he said, “Heal the sick;” “Teach all nations;” “Love your neighbor.” And he gave us the example of the Samaritan to show us that our neighbor is not just those who our denominational brothers and sisters.
And so, as an essential part of our religion, the Church has built hospitals, schools, orphanages, shelters, and soup kitchens. And to those we have welcomed people of all faith and no faith. As has been said, “We don’t serve them because they are Catholics, we serve them because we are Catholic.” Serving those in need is an essential part of the exercise of our religion because “faith without works is dead.”
But now, in a radical reversal of respect for religious liberty and for the First Amendment of our Constitution, the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, will, after the election, compel under threat of heavy fines, Catholic schools, hospitals, and social services that offer health insurance, to violate their own religious teachings if they are to continue caring for the sick, teaching the students, and tending to the poor.
This is new and it is not good.
The federal government will mandate that employers’ health insurance plans include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception even if their conscience and religious teachings object.
You may have heard that there is an “exemption” but the exemption is for those who employ and serve “primarily persons of their own religious tenants.” This would exempt parishes, but it would not exempt Catholic schools, hospitals, and social service agencies because they serve all people. The Good Samaritan didn’t inquire the beliefs of the beaten man; he simply cared for him in his need. That’s what we are commanded by Christ to do. But now, to do it, we’ll have to face a federal fine or violate Church teachings. What has happened to the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”
You may have heard that after the outcry from people of all faith there was an “accommodation.” But, delaying by a year, the choice to violate one’s conscience or federal law, is not an accommodation. Nor is saying that insurance companies will pay for the objectionable services. They’re only passing the cost along in higher premiums.
Nor is this attack on the First Amendment about the popularity of those religious beliefs. When the free exercise of First Amendment rights is determined by the popularity of their content, we are on perilous ground.
So, this is an issue that concerns not just Catholics, but all Americans.
In our history we have had to band together to win our freedomS, to extend them to all God’s people, and to preserve them for all generations. Now is such a time. Today there is such a threat. The federal government is attempting to limit the First Amendment to religious worship among believers and to exclude the free exercise of those beliefs in helping all people.
Please pray for our nation and our leaders that this infringement to religious liberty may be reversed. Please contact your elected officials, express your thoughts and urge support of legislation that preserves First Amendment freedom.
We seek no particular privilege because we are Catholics. We seek only the respect of our rights because we are Americans.
In the cause of liberty, that is what Sam Adams and our Patriot forebears did so long ago. In the defense of liberty, it is what we are called to do today.

 

 

By Attorney  Robert Amorello of Worcester
From the earliest times of history, philosophers and theologians have sought to advance religious liberty and freedom of religion through the law. The Roman lawyer-philosopher Tertullian in the second century sought to assert the rights of religious minorities in the Empire, though unsuccessfully. Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century promoted tolerance of all religions.
In ancient times various Christian, Buddhist, pagan, Muslim and Hindu authorities permitted varying degrees of religious freedom, alternating with periods of persecution. But it was not until the American founding that religious liberty was adopted as a universal and inviolable precept enforced through the law.
The primary impulse for the founding of America was a religious one. Our founding documents attest to this. In 1776 the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason said that “all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion,” and this was guaranteed to Americans in the Bill of Rights.
The Massachusetts Constitution contains one of the strongest proclamations of religious liberty. “No subject shall be hurt or restrained in his person, liberty or estate, for worshiping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace.”
In other words, the government cannot interfere with the free exercise of religion absent what the Supreme Court has referred to as a “compelling state interest.” This means that any challenge, no matter how minor, to religious freedom must serve not just an important, but an absolutely compelling one. Further, the government action must be well-tailored to achieve its purpose. And the action must be one which cannot be achieved through any less restrictive means.
From the time of the founding the right to free exercise of religion was reinforced in dozens of Supreme Court rulings. In 1943, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barrette the Court ruled that one cannot be forced to declare a belief in contradiction of one’s religious beliefs. In 1944, in U.S.v. Ballard the Court held that no government can judge the truth or falsity of a religion, because each person is entitled to the freedom to believe what he or she wishes. Larson v. Valente (1982) prevented the government from favoring one religion over another.
The common principal of these cases, based upon our founding documents is that no person can be forced by the government to violate his/her own conscience.
The Obama Administration’s slogan as we know is “Forward.” But in its attack on religious freedom the Administration is behaving in a manner that is profoundly reactionary. The Administration is seeking to reverse centuries of progress in assuring the fundamental American and human right of Freedom of Religion.
If it is successful, a fundamental principle of our founding and our nation will have been destroyed, perhaps permanently. Countries that have looked to America as an example of enlightened liberty will no longer be able to follow our example. The harm to our country will be irreparable.

– Attorney Amorello  is a lawyer in Worcester.

A letter from Bishop McManus

My dear friends,

I regret that I can’t be present with you at this rally due to a previously scheduled diocesan commitment.  Nonetheless, I wanted to convey to you my thoughts on the crucially important issue of religious liberty and how it is being threatened by the current Administration’s HHS Mandate.
This issue is a very grave matter that affects us deeply both as Catholics and as Americans.  It is important that we are informed about this issue so that we can help our fellow Catholics and other people of good will in properly forming their conscience.  We need to equip our fellow Catholics and citizens to be able to defend the truth about the matter of religious liberty so that they may in turn be able to inform and effectively influence others through their conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Religious liberty is the first liberty granted to us by God and protected in the First Amendment to our Constitution. It includes more than our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home.  It also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans.  The First Amendment protects citizens and institutions from government interference with the exercise of their religious beliefs.  The right of conscience has always been of paramount importance in our American tradition.  In 1809, Thomas Jefferson said, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority.”      Religious liberty is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one of us by our Creator.  It is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and that can be taken away at will.
What is the HHS Mandate and why is it of such significant threat to our religious freedom?  Up until recently, U.S. law has protected the rights of individuals and institutions to refuse participation in activities that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  By issuing a mandate for coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in health plans, the administration’s actions are a radical incursion on the rights of conscience, not only of Catholics, but of many people of good will.  Moreover, the HHS Mandate labels these objectionable drugs and procedures as “preventive services.” Pregnancy is not a disease, and human fertility is not a disease.  These are signs of health and should not be considered illnesses that require “prevention” and “treatment.”
Any supposed “exemption” fails to protect virtually all religious employers.  This is because we do not hire and serve primarily people of our own faith. The Church’s mission is one that serves all people, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. The impact of this mandate is far reaching when we consider all the services encompassing education, charitable works, and health care that are provided by the Church throughout the U.S.  No exemption protects sponsors and providers of health plans for the general public, for pro-life people who own businesses, or individuals with a moral or religious objection to these procedures.  Organizations would be forced to either violate their consciences, or stop offering health benefits altogether and face heavy fines for doing so.  This mandate violates religious liberty because it demands unprecedented government intrusion into the ordering of Church institutions.
It is unreasonable to expect the Church to violate her own teachings by facilitating and funding sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our democracy.  The HHS Mandate fundamentally alters the balance between government and religious groups created by the framers of our Constitution.  This is a bipartisan issue that affects all Americans.  We are asking all citizens, people of all faiths or none at all, to let their voice be heard in standing up against this assault on our religious freedom.  May God grant us success in our efforts to stand up for religious liberty!