Today, religious freedom is under threat throughout the United States—at all levels of government, federal, state, and local—and abroad.
For example, at the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services recently decided that Catholic schools, charities, and hospitals are not “religious employers” that deserve religious freedom protection. As a result, these ministries will be forced to provide and pay for things that violate their moral and religious beliefs, as a part of the health insurance coverage they offer their employees.
At the state level, Alabama has passed legislation that would prevent Catholics from serving undocumented immigrants, even with basics like food, shelter, and medical services. And in Connecticut, legislators proposed a bill that would have forced the Catholic Church to change how it is structured and governed—allowing the State to remake the Church in its own image.
For all these serious threats and ominous trends here in the United States, the attacks on religious liberty around the world are far more severe—and also growing. Assassinations, the bombing of houses of worship, and the torching of orphanages out of hostility to religion are unfortunately still common in many countries. One recent study describes a “rising tide” of threats to religious liberty, with three quarters of the world’s population living in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.
Note the concerns here are broader than the HHS Mandate and broader than the Catholic Church in America. Whoever wins the election Tuesday, and whatever the courts might do with the Mandate, religious liberty will continue to be a major cultural and political issue going forward, and indeed a perennial issue, as the religious freedom generally enjoyed in America is a historical anomaly, and even within America it has been rough sledding at various points for many groups — Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Quakers, Muslims — depending on time and place.