Fr. Preble: Religious Freedom Under Attack

Fr. Peter Michael-Preble

Fr. Peter Michael-Preble

by Fr. Peter Michael-Preble –
America has a very long tradition of freedom. We cherish these freedoms like, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and until recently, freedom of choice. I will admit right up front that I voted for President Obama because, like many, I believed we needed change. Well I now feel I was duped and his brand of change is not what America needs at all.

As an Orthodox priest and an American I believe in traditional family values like marriage, family, saving one’s self for that person we plan to spend the rest of our life with — in other words I believe in Christian values as proscribed not only by my Church’s tradition but by Holy Scripture itself.

On Jan. 20th it was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the religious exemption on certain parts of the health care plan would not continue and now religious organizations, like the church, would have to supply health insurance that provides coverage for contraception and abortion. The Roman Catholic Church has been carrying most of the water on this fight and as usual our Orthodox Bishops are silent on this. We have an opportunity here to make our voice heard but we are more concerned with territory and language than we are with issues that affect real people! It is time for our bishops to wake up and speak out. Our people are confused and need to hear their voices loud and clear.

Obama administration’s witch hunt against religion needs to stop!

I have no issue with the choices you make, you make those choices and you have to deal with consequences but this plan will in effect force me to pay for behavior that my religion calls unacceptable. There has always been an exemption for religious organizations for issues such as these. Prior to this ruling for example the insurance that the Roman Catholic Church offered to her employees did not have to cover abortion or contraception — now that will not be the case. The government of the United States is forcing us to violate our conscience and that is unacceptable. The Obama administration’s witch hunt against religion needs to stop!

I am a firm believer that in a country as wealthy as ours, something needs to be done about the out of control cost of health care. To live in a country that develops a majority of the procedures and medications that save lives but at the same time are out of reach of a majority of American is unconscionable. But I am not willing to trade my religious freedom either. There is no Constitutional right to health care but there is a Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

The government of the United States is forcing us to violate our conscience and that is unacceptable.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops, said at a recent press conference held on this topic, “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience.” He continued, “This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

Roman Catholics are not the only ones speaking out on this issue. In December the National Association of Evangelicals sent a letter to President Obama expressing their dissatisfaction with this mandate; “the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds.”

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

the 1st Amendment starts with the freedom of religion … even before freedom of speech, press, or assembly

Notice that the 1st Amendment starts with the freedom of religion. The framers of the Constitution placed this first even before freedom of speech, press, or assembly of the people! Religion was protected first, until the Obama Administration decided to throw it out the window and attack.

This is a direct attack on religious freedom in American and the start of a slippery slope to more regulations attacking the faith of Americans. In recent years it has become totally acceptable to attack religion and if we, the religious people in America, do not stand up and make our voice heard, including the Orthodox Bishops in America, we will see our rights eroded away. This is only the start of a change in America that I cannot accept.

HT: AOI and Huffington Post

Comments

  1. Susan Battaglia says:

    I agree with the catholic bishops. THis is an erosion of our liberties under freedo of religion. How can we protest this ludicris decision for people of faith?

  2. Father Bless! I am rather disturbed by your article here; to be an orthodox priest with a seminary education surely knows how to discern political ideologies and messages of elected representatives and future candidates? Had you been more concerned with the right to life than the freedom of religion in the first place you would not be blaming the president for your choices and actions. I am also sure, that you, as a registered voter, knew that Barack Hussein Obama, as the Junior Senator from Illinois, had the worst pro-life record of any US Senator in history.

    Now, there are some who say that one should not base their vote essentially upon a single issue–yet, the life issue, directly impacts all other issues, and in the words of my father, “if a candidate vows to protect the innocent, then he or she will most likely act in the best interest of the people.” As an Orthodox priest, how can you teach, preach, and beseach the God of the Incarnation while voting for a man who makes the slaughter of innocents wrought at the hand of King Herod appear as a mere scratch on the flesh? How many future Patriarchs, Bishops, and Priests, Saints have been slaughtered under the power of President Obama? Duped? It’s not Barack Obama’s fault that he’s president–it’s yours and many like you! Take some responsibility for your own participation in electing a man whose policies have murdered thousands and have the potential to murder millions! What exactly did you expect from a man like this? Did you think he’d respect religious freedom of consience? How can a priest even come to that conclusion knowing that in his religious concience there is nothing sinful about a woman’s right to choose an abortion–and the pro-choice movement is NOT about saving babies in the womb.

    You know, there were hunderds of thousands marching in the March for Life here in DC earlier this week. Among them were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Orthodox Christians doing what they were born to do–Metropolitans, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Monastics, and Lay people–all there to defend those who cannot defend themselves and to take the kind of stand that doesn’t require a lot of sitting. If you want change, dear Father, then I suggest you return to the teaching of the Father’s and start by guarding your heart–a guarded heart can protect the soul–ideas are challenged, questioned, and tested. But an open mind–not-challenging, not-questioning, not-testing… always leads to catastrophe and disintigration.

    Pray for me, Father, a sinner. Mark Schutzius

  3. Mark,
    And you should know better than to take a priest to task. One, it is against canon law and two, it’s rude.

  4. David M,

    Why don’t you source the exact Canon of Canon Law if I am in violation for sending a public response to the public message of a priest?

    While you’re at it, find that Canon that covers a priest’s prohibition at “taking the Orthodox (Canonical) Bishops of America to task” because of their “silence” while aligning himself with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on that same issue.

    One thing I know, is that Abortion not only violates what is written in both the Old and New Testaments, it also is condemned in the Didache, and as far as the Councils are concerned, it violates the 91st Canon by the Quinisext Ecumenical Council (692) which declared to wit: that “those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the fetus, are subject to the penalty of murder.”

    As for being ‘rude’ well, all I can say is that if someone puts something out there and they are on the wrong side of an issue, then that deserves comment. President Obama (the Herod of today) advocates infanticide–plain and simple. Anyone who advocates the election of public officials who are for abortion endanger their souls–the Holy Family fled King Herod… so should we in all his many forms.

    Yet I pose this question to you, is it more ‘rude’ to take a stand that being ‘duped’ lacks adequate form of excuse, or is it more ‘rude’ to call him out on voting for a pro-death president?

    It’s a valid question.

    Mark Schutzius

  5. Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos says:

    Dear Father Preble,
     
    With the consent of your canonical hierarch, His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas, I write this day in response to comments made in your recent posting, “Religious Freedom Under Attack” (January 23, 2012, at Huffingtonpost.com; Culture/Religion).
     
    Most knowledgeable voters would not be surprised at the recent turn of events concerning health care and religious institutions as determined by the administration of President Obama, whose record even as a state legislator in Illinois—a fact discussed during the Presidential campaign prior to his election—demonstrated views on exemptions of “conscience” very similar to those recently announced by the Department of Health and Human Services.  If you feel “duped,” as you state it, it is likely to your inattentiveness and ignorance.
     
    This same inattentiveness and ignorance is obviously displayed later in the same post when you state, unequivocally, that regarding your subject, “as usual our Orthodox Bishops are silent on this.”  Indeed, your ignorance of the activities and blatant disrespect for your hierarch and the many others ministering in the United States is demonstrated in the accusation that we, “are more concerned with territory and language than we are with issues that affect real people!  It is time for our bishops to wake up and speak out.”
     
    Perhaps the hierarchs of the Church could decide to participate in civil discourse in the crass political discourse so common on the Internet.  Perhaps there is a “more excellent way.” While the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops has indeed received much attention for their public reactions (over several years—again, dating to a similar case involving the Chicago Archdiocese when then State Senator Obama served in the Illinois legislature) due to their many institutions directly affected by the change in policy, this does not mean that Orthodox hierarchs have been “silent.”  The fact that Orthodox hierarchs may have not received the attention of the public media in similar fashion might be admitted, but this is also not the only manner to effect change in governmental policy.
     
    Furthermore, as a former President of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, I do not recall your commentary or acknowledgement of our Church’s action at the forefront of the successful efforts to abolish capital punishment in Illinois—an issue that obviously affects real people, including Andrew Kokoraleis, an Orthodox Christian who was the last person executed by the State of Illinois.
     
    In addition to my own extensive activities with the Bishop’s Task Force on HIV/AIDS (the first Orthodox ministry established to confront and minister to persons living with, surviving in, and dying in this pandemic) and other social justice ministries here in the Midwest and, indeed, throughout the United States, I would also bring your attention to the lauded participation of numerous hierarchs in right-to-life issues, including the annual march in Washington, D.C.  To these we could add the many parochial clergy and monastics in the United States who continually participate in various coalitions, organizations and routinely address such subjects as that of your recent post.  To suggest otherwise is a most serious insult to their integrity.
     
    Of course, I could continue with numerous other examples from personal activities of clergy and laity, of public pronouncements and statements of SCOBA and the particular Orthodox jurisdictions.
     
    If “our people” are confused and need to hear our voices “loud and clear,” your comments are certainly counterproductive when you suggest, insolently, that His Eminence Archbishop Nicolae, myself, and our brother hierarchs are “more concerned with territory and language.”  Your comments only serve to undermine their authority among those less familiar with the activities and teachings of the Church.  Indeed, you have only served to ridicule all faithful Orthodox Christians in your caricature and outmoded stereotyping.
     
    I know not one hierarch ministering in the United States, or anywhere else, that would prioritize territory or preservation of culture and language over matters concerning life and death.  I do know that the political and legal ends you erroneously thought you were serving can be achieved in numerous ways, one that does not infringe on the dignity of any of the sisters and brothers of the Holy Church, clergy and laity alike.  Perhaps, I pray, you will be more sensitive to upholding that dignity in your public comments in the future.
     
    Sincerely in Christ,
     
    Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor
    Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago

  6. WorriedMSW says:

    I have to say that although I do disagree with Fr Preble on several key points, I’m shocked at the response from church leadership. We have opened a civil dialogue, and an important one for the church and the response from the leadership sounds like an insecure teenager. The parading of all of the important things you do left me feeling like I had just met Saul on his way to conversion. Your “extensive activities” are listed off like a who’s who of talking heads. While we are in the trenches working to PREVENT THE NEED for abortion and maintain funding for women’s health, you choose to attack and parade your involvment like you are the savior of the world.

    The church and those who are not “the true church” need to hear you loud and clear. We live in a world of chaos and “loud and clear” speaks volumes. We may not agree, but we need your leadership to be full of grace and truth, not spouting off a list of the many ways you “help”.

    Stop bragging about what you “do” and stop slamming your own clergy like an child who is called names on the playground. Step up and lead, because clearly we are asking for it.