“Today, Catholic priests, religious and laity can be found walking the neighborhood streets of our most struggling communities in places abandoned by a 'throwaway culture' that has too often determined that quick profits matter more than communities,” he said.
“We are there offering education, health care, social services, and hope, working to serve as the 'field hospital' Pope Francis has called us to be.”
“Rest assured, if people of faith continue to be marginalized, it is the poor and vulnerable, not the Chairman and his friends, who will suffer,” Archbishop Lori maintained.
“Peaceful Coexistence,” released last week, sided with anti-discrimination protections when they are in a perceived conflict with religious freedom exemptions, and asks that religious exemptions be as narrow as possible.
“Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of preeminent importance in American jurisprudence,” the report stated.
Meanwhile, “religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights,” it added.
Furthermore, the report recommended that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act be amended, which could mean a massive shift in religious freedom jurisprudence.
The act was passed in 1993 – with a 97-3 vote in the U.S. Senate – after the Supreme Court ruled in Employment Division v. Smith that a person’s religiously motivated actions were not protected when they conflicted with existing law.
Thus, RFRA created a process to determine whether a religiously-motivated action could be exempt from federal law. The law must not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless the government can “demonstrate” that it is “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means” of doing so.
The Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that Hobby Lobby, a closely-held for-profit corporation run by the Green family, was protected under the law.
In response last week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights insisted that only “individuals and religious institutions” and not businesses could be protected under the law, “and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.”
(Story continues below)
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States should follow suit with their own RFRA-type laws, the report added.
Two commissioners dissented from the majority ruling. One, Gail Heriot, said that “the Commission majority takes a complex subject and tries to make it simple – far too simple. Not many legal or constitutional issues come down to good guys vs. bad guys.”
She issued a sharp rebuke of Chairman Castro’s statement on the “hypocrisy” of religious freedom being supposedly used to discriminate against others.
“In some ways, I envy anyone who can dismiss those who disagree with him as mere hypocrites,” Heriot said of Castro.
“Does Chairman Castro really believe that the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose case is currently before the Supreme Court, are just a bunch of hypocrites? Does he believe that they are making up their concern over being compelled to finance their employees' contraception? Does he think they really just want to save money?”
The chair also “inexplicably associates statutes like the RFRA with 'Christian supremacy,'” she continued.