WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2011 ( – Bishop William Lori, chair of the USCCB’s newly created Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, called on Congress to take action to protect religious liberty in testimony delivered yesterday before a House Judiciary subcommittee.

He told the committee that the USCCB’s decision this past June to create the committee he was now chairing was motivated by a pressing concern over the recent onslaught of attacks against religious liberty.

“That I am already appointed as Chair represents action at near light-speed in Church time, and attests to the urgency of the matter from the Bishops’ perspective,” he said.


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The bishop focused in particular on actions taken by the Obama Administration, including the controversial HHS mandate requiring employers to cover all contraceptives, including drugs that can cause early abortions.

Additionally, he pointed to the administration’s decision to withdraw government contracts from Catholic organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) based on those organizations’ refusal to provide “reproductive services” that conflict with Church teaching.

“Already, HHS has taken its major program for serving trafficking victims away from MRS and transferred it to several smaller organizations that frankly may not be equipped to assume this burden,” he said.

He also criticized the Department of Justice for the polemical tone of recent court briefs it had filed in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. According to Lori, the DOJ had claimed “that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.”

“If the label of ‘bigot’ sticks to our Church and many other churches – especially in court, under the Constitution – because of their teaching on marriage, the result will be church-state conflicts for many years to come,” he commented.

Bishop Lori called for “urgent and concentrated action” in response to these attacks, including support for the Protect Life Act, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, and the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

He suggested that a Congressional hearing may be needed to investigate “the illegal conditions that HHS and USAID are placing on providers of human services.”

He also noted the existence of state attacks on religious liberty, such as New York’s failure to protect the conscience rights of court clerks who refuse to cooperate with same sex marriage and Illinois’ refusal to allow Catholic Charities to facilitate adoption and foster care.

“The religious freedom threats to marriage at the state level may fall beyond the scope of authority of Congress to control,” Bishop Lori conceded. He added, however, that the federal government’s funding of state adoption and foster care services may provide Congress with some sway even on the state level.

Note: This article originally stated that Bishop Lori urged support for the Respect for Marriage Act. In fact, the bishop had urged legislators to resist the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriages as between a man and a woman in federal law. LSN regrets the error.