Given the expressed intent of the Founding Fathers in establishing a free, just and virtuous society, the importance of morality as its foundation, and their recourse to God from the beginning through recent history…it’s remarkable that we are in this battle now.

But some of our fundamental rights are under an unprecedented wave of assaults by raw federal and judicial power, so the gravity of the moment is sinking in.

The stunning power grab by HHS in mandating health insurance coverage of contraceptives and controversial FDA approved ’morning-after’ drugs that work on the same mechanism as RU-486 abortifacents…all covered with no co-pay under the category of ‘preventive health care for women’…pushed the debate that started with the Obama healthcare legislation into a confrontation. Some high-profile Catholic supporters of ‘Obamacare’ have become alarmed at its latest implementation.

Like CHA head Sr. Carol Keehan.

The Catholic Health Association, in comments dated Sept. 23, also criticized the HHS proposal.

“Requiring our members to cover contraceptive services, including sterilization and drugs with an abortifacient effect, would put them in an untenable situation,” said Sister Carole Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is CHA president and CEO.

The proposed exemptions, she added, raise “serious constitutional questions” by trying to define if an organization is “sufficiently religious” to warrant the exemption. “The government is unconstitutionally parsing a bona fide religious organization into ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ components solely to impose burdens on the secular portion,” Sister Carol said.

They are false exemptions, frankly, that fool no one, as Sr. Carol Keehan proves by her criticism. They’re so ridiculously written, not even Jesus would qualify, says Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

Jesus himself would not qualify for the Department of Health and Human Services “religious employer exemption” from its abortifacient contraceptive mandate, according to the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

The HHS’s “religious employer exemption” is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.”

DiNardo was objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement, which will go into effect in 2012, that all insurance programs nationwide cover all forms of contraception – including abortifacient drugs such as Plan B and Ella – and sterilization as “preventive services for women.” Under the mandate only faith-based institutions that serve members of the same faith would be able to claim an exemption – thereby excluding the large number of religious organizations that offer their services to people of any or no faith.

The remarks, in which the cardinal accused the HHS of “a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion,” were made as part of the USCCB’s 40th annual October observance of Respect Life Month.

“The decision [by HHS] is wrong on many levels,” the cardinal said. “Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease…. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives,” he said.

I spoke with Cardinal DiNardo on my radio show, and he expressed the bishops’ fundamental concern about the whole effort to redefine the truths of the human person and marginalize beliefs that hold the sanctity and dignity of human life as central to everything else. Here are just some of the resources he and the USCCB provide for the defense of life and liberty, and they are abundant.

We talked about the morphing of ‘freedom of religion’ into ‘freedom of worship’, which mean very different things. The difference means, to re-state the threat at hand, driving religiously informed voices from the public debate over social moral issues. It’s happening, and he emphasized the need to resist it, and that starts by recognizing that its happening in the first place.

After Cardinal DiNardo, I spoke with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, co-author of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act in Congress. He couldn’t stress public involvement in this effort enough, and I was struck by his fervent appeal and sobering outlook. HR 1179 isn’t gaining the attention it needs because short of alternative media, it’s being conveniently ignored. And calling or writing members of Congress is only one action, Fortenberry said. It’s going to require so much more, and I was struck by what he said. Startled, really.

Fortenberry said in the Capitol, he frequently sees great numbers of young, vibrant and attractive young people zealously engaged in a cause and filling the halls of congressional offices with their messages. This happens regularly, he said, and I’m picturing a positive image of those zealous young pro-lifers who fill the Mall of Washinton every year for the March for Life. Yes, he said, that’s a great event and yes, they come out in droves and hundreds of thousands and it’s so heartening to see that on that day each year.

But it’s one day a year, and then they disappear. The young people he’s so used to seeing engaged in activism in the halls of congressional offices are wearing pink with signs advocating for Planned Parenthood. They are turning out in great numbers on a regular basis, and the pro-life movement is not. This is tough love, but it’s true. The success of a movement is determined by its staying power in public activism, and it’s tough to see and to hear that the abortion supporters are present in far greater numbers on a regular basis than pro-life supporters.

I don’t know about the show’s listeners, but I was jarred into realizing this is going to take a whole new level of activism Congressman Fortenberry proposed. No…urged. Contact your elected representatives, yes. And then spread the message to your groups, networks, organizations, friends and associations. Put up links in your social networks. Spread information, rally people to gatherings and take some action to defend and protect human dignity and fundamental rights of conscience and religious liberty.

It’s not going to happen unless people of faith and moral conviction are all in. Not participating is not an option. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s un-American to say it’s not going to make a difference. That’s a self-fulfilling prohesy.

During the show today, I recalled Congressman Henry Hyde’s reference to the quote: ‘Not only for every idle threat, but for every idle silence will man be made to render an account.’ Silence is not an option.

(Here’s the radio interview for October 4th.)

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....