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Opposition to Respect for Marriage Act displays bishops’ paranoia on spiritual freedom

(RNS) — The U.S. Catholic bishops’ considerations about spiritual liberty led them to oppose the lately enacted Respect for Marriage Act, which provides federal safety to same-sex and interracial marriages.

Are the bishops’ fears justified, or are they being paranoid?

In a letter addressed to members of Congress earlier than the vote, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Convention of Catholic Bishops’ committee for spiritual liberty, and Bishop Robert Barron, chairman of the USCCB’s committee on laity, marriage, household life and youth, argued that the act would threaten authorities assist for Catholic establishments that serve the poor in addition to these establishments’ tax-exempt standing if they didn’t acknowledge marriages between folks of the identical intercourse.

The bishops “are inclined to the paranoid, they usually have opposed lots of good laws due to their paranoia,” stated Douglas Laycock, a professor on the College of Virginia Regulation College and skilled on spiritual freedom. “They’ve opposed spiritual liberty laws, they usually opposed well being take care of uninsured People.”

Laycock is referring to the 2010 Reasonably priced Care Act, which the bishops opposed as a result of they stated it might power Catholic establishments to violate Catholic ethical educating in opposition to abortion and contraception. Actually, this has not occurred.

On contraception, the U.S. Supreme Court docket dominated that the nursing houses run by the Little Sisters of the Poor didn’t have to supply contraception in its worker insurance coverage plan. As well as, the courtroom even supported Passion Foyer, a secular enterprise, in its opposition to sure types of contraception.

Nor within the final 12 years has any Catholic establishment been compelled to carry out abortions or another medical process on account of the Reasonably priced Care Act. These fears by no means materialized.

Laycock acknowledges that the bishops “have been principally however not solely paranoid” on the Reasonably priced Care Act.

“There was no assure that they’d win Passion Foyer,” he stated. And “the Little Sisters received greater than they deserved, and I say that as a powerful defender of spiritual exemptions. Nobody might have identified that the Court docket’s new majority would go to date.”

After crying wolf over the Reasonably priced Care Act, you’d assume that the bishops could be extra cautious in enjoying the religious-freedom card. As an alternative, in response to the Respect for Marriage Act, the bishops stated that Catholic establishments will lose their tax exemptions; Catholic social providers is not going to get authorities funding.

Like Rooster Little, they cried, “The sky is falling.”

“Their claims about funding and tax exemptions within the Respect for Marriage Act are simply false,” says Laycock. “The invoice expressly protects funding and tax exemption from something within the invoice.”

From left, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speak with reporters after Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, on the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photograph/J. Scott Applewhite)

The safety of spiritual liberty was included within the invoice on the insistence of a bipartisan group of senators that features Tammy Baldwin, Susan Collins, Rob Portman, Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis. They needed the invoice handed and knew that it might be scuttled by accusations that it threatened spiritual establishments.

Laycock and three different constitutional legislation students, who’ve “studied, taught, and written concerning the legislation of spiritual liberty for many years,” they stated, wrote a letter detailing how the RMA protects spiritual liberty. Of their arguments they shot down the false accusations that the RMA would threaten spiritual liberty.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lots of different spiritual teams supported the invoice as soon as these protections have been added within the Senate.

However the Catholic bishops stated that “If handed, the amended Act will put the ministries of the Catholic Church, folks of religion, and different People who uphold a standard which means of marriage at higher danger of presidency discrimination.”

In opposing the RMA, the Catholic bishops might have hoped to carry the invoice hostage to get safety not simply from the invoice itself however from different legal guidelines. If that’s the case, this tactic failed and easily additional alienated their opponents.

The bishops’ “grievance is that it doesn’t defend them universally in opposition to another supply of legislation,” defined Laycock. “True, however nothing on this invoice makes them any worse off.”

By their scare ways in opposition to the Reasonably priced Care Act and the Respect for Marriage Act, the bishops have misplaced all credibility on spiritual freedom points, which is unhappy. There are respectable considerations that Catholic charities and hospitals have over spiritual freedom, however who’s going to imagine something the bishops say sooner or later. They’ve destroyed their credibility.

In contrast to the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the bishops are unwilling to barter cheap compromises with folks with different considerations. Such an uncompromising stance is making them politically irrelevant. Neither politicians nor Catholic voters care what the bishops say anymore. 

The bishops might really feel that they don’t have to compromise now that they’ve a 6-3 majority within the U.S. Supreme Court docket. This may be shortsighted, nevertheless, since courts can change.

As well as, the bishops’ uncompromising stance tasks a unfavourable picture for the church, which is seen as making an attempt to impose its unpopular theological views on the remainder of the nation.

The day is coming when the church could have respectable considerations about spiritual freedom, however by that point, nobody goes to concentrate to the bishops. Their paranoia has destroyed their credibility and made them irrelevant.

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