WASHINGTON, April 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A committee of the US Bishops Conference has called it an “obligation of faith” for Catholics to refuse to obey unjust laws. Topping the examples of unjust laws listed in the 12-page statement, released today, is the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, which seeks to force religious employers to cover contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs. The list also includes the forcing of Catholic agencies to permit homosexual adoption and foster care.

“It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices,” says the document. “If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.”

The Bishops say that through Obama’s contraceptive mandate, “in an unprecedented way, the federal government will both force religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching and purport to define which religious institutions are ‘religious enough’ to merit protection of their religious liberty.”

In addition, the same section notes that “Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.”

The Bishops call on all Catholics to pray, fast and take action in the face of such threats to freedom and also to hold fast to the teachings of the faith.  They exhort politicians to stand up for religious freedom.

They specifically address Catholic health care workers telling them: “It is you who may be forced to choose between the good works we do by faith, and fidelity to that faith itself. We encourage you to hold firm, to stand fast, and to insist upon what belongs to you by right as Catholics and Americans. Our country deserves the best we have to offer, including our resistance to violations of our first freedom.”

The document urges priests to preach forcefully about religious freedom and even engages bloggers in the same task. “The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.”

The document proposes a special “fortnight for freedom,” from June 21 to July 4 in which bishops in their own dioceses arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom.  The fortnight begins significantly on the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More who were martyred for holding to the faith under “persecution by political power.”

The Bishops suggest the following prayer to be used by all to implore God for His help in the battle.

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live
in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The full statement: Our First, Most Cherished Liberty