by Brandon McGinley

As was widely reported yesterday, 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions, including the Archdioceses of New York and Washington, DC, and the University of Notre Dame,  filed suit against the federal government over the unprecedented attack on religious liberty contained in the health insurance mandate.  This remarkable demonstration of unity shows, once again, that President Obama and his radical progressive allies may have inadvertently roused a long-dormant force in American public life.  In an interview with CBS This Morning, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reminds us that the issue is not contraception, but the ability of all churches and religious institutions to function publicly:

In the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon goes further, arguing that the mandate is “a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions.”  She goes on:

More is at stake here than the mission of all churches, including the Catholic Church, to provide social services like health care and education to everyone regardless of creed, and to do so without compromising their beliefs. At the deepest level, we are witnessing an attack on the institutions of civil society that are essential to limited government and are important buffers between the citizen and the all-powerful state.

If religious providers of education, health care and social services are closed down or forced to become tools of administration policy, the government consolidates a monopoly over those essential services. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put it, we are witnessing an effort to reduce religion to a private activity. “Never before,” he said, “have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith.”

Both Prof. Glendon and Cardinal Dolan are absolutely correct.  The administration is trying to chisel a hole in the wall that protects religious persons and institutions from government meddling by pretending that this is a “noncontroversial” (although many Catholics would quibble with this) “women’s health” issue.  Secular progressives do this looking forward to the day when they can claim that other issues which pit church against state, such as same-sex “marriage,” are no longer “controversial,” and then they will plug that hole with dynamite and blast the wall to smithereens.