Fortnight for Freedom Issue #5: Archbishop William Lori responds to those who would like to restrict freedom of religion.

Some of the strongest critics of the bishops’ position maintain that the Catholic church wishes to curtail the freedom of others. Since Catholic institutions do not exclusively serve Catholics, not providing support for contraception limits the freedom of those who do not subscribe to Catholic teachings about human sexuality. Underlying some of these criticisms is the point that the Catholic Church, with its all-male clergy and hierarchical structure, is an organization that doesn’t appreciate the full freedom of its members.

A response to some of these points was made by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori during a recent address as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Lori called attention to what he characterizes as “strange inversions” in the public debate about the HHS mandate. Against the claim that the Catholic Church is attempting to encode its doctrine in law, Lori observed that the Catholic Church does not want “to force anybody to do anything.” Instead, the issue is government demanding uniformity and coercing religious employers to violate their own values.

While Lori did not address those who criticize the very structure of the Catholic Church, he argued that in the name of diversity and choice the government is effectively doing away with diversity and choice in the public sphere. Indeed, one of Lori’s central concerns is that HHS mandate relies on a very restrictive understanding of what it means to be a religious person -after all, people do not leave their religiosity behind when they leave their mosque or synagogue, church or temple.

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