Despite the recent Hobby Lobby court victory, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb. stressed the need for Catholics to continue to evangelize and fight against the prevailing culture of secularism.
“The victory is not unqualified and the fight for our religious liberty is not complete. Churches, hospitals, and universities are still threatened by the HHS contraceptive mandate,” Bishop Conley said in his July 11 archdiocesan column.
On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and similar employers cannot be forced to comply with the federal contraception mandate against their religious beliefs.
Craft giant Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, had challenged a federal mandate issued under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
The Greens said that mandate would require them to violate their deeply-held Christian beliefs against facilitating abortion.
In his column, Bishop Conley said the repercussions of the Hobby Lobby decision have indeed established that “believers have a place in the public square – that all of us should be free to conduct our business without compromising our basic moral beliefs.”
However, the Supreme Court decision also relayed the overwhelming assertions of secularists, “whose loyalties lie more closely with unfettered sexual libertinism than with respect for fundamental rights of conscience, of religion, or of personal dignity,” the bishop said.
Although the fight for religious freedom in litigation is important, Bishop Conley suggested that the root issue is secularism.
“Religious liberty will be threatened in our nation as long as secularism is the prevailing cultural leitmotif.”
“The Hobby Lobby decision has exposed the secular tendency towards atheocracy – the systematic hostility and marginalization of religious believers who engage in American public life, a kind of practical atheism established as the norm.”
Social cohesion has become a higher priority than religious freedom, due to the hostility towards faith in the public arena, the bishop reflected.
In his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis suggests an alternative to a secularist culture by emphasizing the importance of a society marked by faith.
“An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged,” Pope Francis observed.
The Holy Father went on to say that “justice is the fruit of faith,” and that “an evangelized culture will be a just culture.”
With the rise of religious persecution all over the world, the evangelization of culture is an unprecedented priority.
Although religious liberty is not an end in itself, Bishop Conley stressed that it “is the freedom for something real – the freedom to make disciples of all nations – to spread the Gospel, and its fruits, joyfully.”
“If we want to protect our religious liberty,” Bishop Conley went on to say, “the very best thing we can do is to use it – to transform culture by transforming hearts for Jesus Christ.”