The House Minority Leader has done it again. A few weeks back, Nancy Pelosi was asked about the Protect Life Act and Catholic Bishops supporting the bill. (Among other things, the Protect Life Act prohibits discrimination against health care professionals and entities from participating in abortion procedures.) Ms. Pelosi expressed her opposition to the bill and the bishops with the snide remark, “I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it … but they have this conscience thing.”
In one fell swoop, Pelosi derided not just the religious beliefs of Catholics but every citizen committed to the principle that freedom of conscience is more than a mere political platitude to be bandied about.
At a press briefing last week, Pelosi attempted to outdo her previous comment. She was asked the following question by a reporter with CNS News:
In August, HHS issued a proposed regulation under the new health care law that would require that all health care plans cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives. The U.S. Catholic bishops have called the regulation an unprecedented attack on religious freedom and have asked HHS to drop it. Do you agree with the bishops?
I have great respect for our bishops when they are my pastor. As lobbyists in Washington D.C., we have some areas of disagreement.
Does one think for a moment Pelosi would publicly dismiss leaders of Planned Parenthood or NARAL as inside the beltway lobbyists? Planned Parenthood Federation of America, by the way, spent $400,000 on lobbying in just the first quarter of this year.
Church leaders are hardly lobbyists when they seek to preserve the religious liberties of all. Religious leaders are not lobbyists when they petition the government to protect the dignity of marriage or the rights of the unborn. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was no lobbyist on account of his support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To disregard Catholic Bishops as “lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” because of their opposition to a governmental mandate that would force Catholic hospitals and schools to provide insurance coverage for practices Catholics believe to be wrong is, quite simply, insulting. And not just to Catholics. It’s an insult to all citizens who believe that religious freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment, is a fundamental right and governing principle of our constitutional order.
Contrary to Pelosi’s dismissive characterization, religious groups and leaders are not “lobbyists” simply because they take their concerns and demands to Congress and encourage others to do so. Church leaders who throughout our country’s history worked tirelessly in support of abolitionism, child labor laws, and civil rights were not “lobbyists” for these and other social causes. Like those who fight for life, liberty, and family today, they were zealous advocates for the common good.
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