Just when you're about to give up entirely on the federal courts, a small sign of hope emerges.
From The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:
Today [Dec. 18], a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate. Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges' cases as premature. Today, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days-starting in mid-February-until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges' religious freedom. The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013....
'This is a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate,' said [Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty]. 'The government has now been forced to promise that it will never enforce the current mandate against religious employers like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey and a federal appellate court will hold the government to its word.'
A win? Perhaps. Still, I think it's a bit premature to declare victory. One can hope that these legal challenges to the HHS mandate are making the Obama administration sweat a little, so to speak. Or maybe the president will actually have a pang of conscience. After all, the least he can do is allow for authentic religious freedom here in the United States of America.
As Pope Benedict XVI recently stated, religious freedom is a fundamental human right. (Granted, I'm not holding my breath that the president will embrace the pope's wisdom.) In his message for the 46th World Day of Peace on Dec. 14, the pope said:
'One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom.
'At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from-for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one's religion-but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for-for example, bearing witness to one's religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each.
'Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.'