.- The U.S. bishops have launched a nationwide prayer campaign to defend religious liberty against recent threats such as the federal contraception mandate.
The campaign centers around a newly-released “Prayer for Religious Liberty,” which asks God to grant “a clear and united voice” to all who gather to defend rights of conscience “in this decisive hour in the history of our nation.”
At a Washington, D.C. administrative committee meeting on March 13-14, leaders of the U.S. bishops' conference called for the campaign in response to imminent threats to religious liberty, including the Obama administration's controversial contraception mandate.
Bishops from every diocese in the country have spoken out against the mandate – announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 20 – which will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
In a March 14 statement assessing the threat to religious freedom posed by the mandate, the bishops urged all people of faith to engage in “prayer and penance” for the protection of conscience rights in America.
“Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength,” the bishops said, observing that “without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.”
The bishops’ conference website offers campaign resources including suggested prayers of the faithful for religious liberty and more information on the mandate.
It also offers a bulletin insert with instructions on how to contact members of Congress and ask them to support legislation to protect religious freedom and conscience rights under the health care law.
The new “Prayer for Religious Liberty” can be downloaded in both Spanish and English on the website, and prayer cards featuring Mary Immaculate and Our Lady of Guadalupe can be ordered in bulk.
The prayer acknowledges that man’s “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” comes from the “provident hand” of God the Creator.
It recognizes both “the right and the duty” to worship God by living out one’s faith “in the midst of the world.”
“We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty,” says the prayer, which requests “strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened.”
It also asks for “courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.”
The prayer asks God for help to overcome trials and dangers that so that future generations may continue to experience the greatness of America as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”