PEORIA, Illinois, April 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A pro-life law firm is promising a “legal war” if the Internal Revenue Service heeds a complaint filed two weeks ago against Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria. The complaint came after the bishop said that President Obama’s attack on religious freedom through the contraceptive mandate indicates he “seems intent on following a similar path” as past totalitarian dictators such as Hitler and Stalin.
“The Internal Revenue Service has no legal right to investigate, let alone threaten or penalize, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria for illegal ‘electioneering’ after Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C. referred to policies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin while delivering a robust, wholly legitimate critique of current federal efforts to quash and curtail religious liberties,” says Tom Brejcha, President of the Thomas More Society, a public interest Chicago-based law firm.
“References to egregious, historic mistakes on the part of political leaders of the past in messages to congregations, even during an election year, are fully protected by the First Amendment, whether those messages are delivered from pulpits or on soapboxes in the public square,” Brejcha added.
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In his April 14th homily, offered at the cathedral to a gathering of 500 Catholic men, Bishop Jenky urged the faithful to oppose President Obama’s “radical pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda” at the ballot box in November.
He insisted that Catholics must oppose the birth control mandate, which requires institutions to cover all contraception, including abortifacient drugs, because “no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.”
As a result, the bishop has been slammed by columnists, secularist groups, and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. Over 100 faculty members at Notre Dame University have called for his removal from the Catholic institution’s board of fellows.
On April 19th, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based secularist group, claimed the homily violated federal law by taking sides in a political campaign and filed a complaint with the IRS.
“No rational person could believe the bishop was doing anything but saying vote against Obama,” said Barry Lynn, the group’s executive director.
Brejcha, whose law firm has successfully faced down the IRS twice recently on behalf of pro-life groups, is promising free legal counsel to any religious leader who is threatened for speaking out by the government or interest groups.
“We think the law is very clear,” said Brejcha. “Well-settled Federal law does not prohibit churches and other tax-exempt non-profits from speaking out against government policies at odds with the common good or - as in this case - constitutionally obnoxious.”
“Where would the Civil Rights movement have been were it not for the courage of those of our religious leaders who spoke truth to power on behalf of the disenfranchised?” Brejcha added.
“When Bishop Jenky said, ‘...every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences…,’ he’s simply telling people that their religious convictions and values matter outside the church walls,” he said.