Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2012 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says Catholics must act now to protect their right to religious freedom from being diminished in American society.
“This is a time where people of all faiths – especially Catholics – have to stand up and speak for our rights,” he said. “And if we do, we will rekindle civil society.” In an August 17 conference call organized by the online fundraising group Catholics2012.org, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he tries to apply the teachings of his Catholic faith to his work. “I’m proud to acknowledge that it’s why I do what I do,” he said. The vice presidential candidate also discussed religious liberty concerns that have taken center stage in the Catholic community over the last several months. The concerns center around a federal mandate that requires most employers to offer health insurance plans that offer contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences. The mandate has drawn criticism from groups representing a wide variety of religious and political backgrounds. It is currently the subject of numerous lawsuits throughout the country. Critics of the mandate have said that it infringes upon religious freedom and could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable institutions to shut down rather than violate their sincerely-held religious convictions. Ryan warned that this “assault on our religious liberties” constitutes “a serious threat to all peoples of faith.” “It is a violation of the First Amendment of our bill of rights,” he said. The vice presidential contender cautioned that the philosophy behind such actions “seeks to displace civil society” and “crowd out our social mediating institutions,” such as churches, charities and hospitals. These are “groups that connect the person to the community,” he explained, and they play a role in implementing the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and the preferential option for the poor that should be practiced in civil society. Ryan said that he “shudder(s) to think what the world could look like” if President Obama is re-elected and his administration is able to continue eroding religious liberty. There is a need for practicing Catholics to “get the word out” on these important issues, he said. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), who is also Catholic, warned that the mandate presents “an unprecedented form of government coercion.” “It is a different worldview that is operative,” he stated. Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Fortenberry introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in the House of Representatives to preserve the conscience rights of employers and health care providers across the country. He explained that the bill simply restates “a principle that has been operative in our health care system” for many years. However, despite initially gaining momentum, including the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and more than half of the U.S. House, the legislation has stalled in Congress. Fortenberry emphasized the importance of fighting the mandate in order to protect America’s fundamental freedoms. “No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” he said. “No one should be forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood.”