The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on Catholics throughout the country to observe a "Fortnight for Freedom," beginning today and running through July 4, to protest the Obama administration's health care policies.
They contend this is not political. Some Catholics in the pews disagree: According to an NPR report by Barbara Bradley Hagerty:
Marion McCartney, who attends the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C., opposes the bishops' campaign. She's part of a group, Blessed Sacrament Families United in Faith and Action, that wrote a letter to its pastor, saying the partisan nature of the campaign is "a step too far."
"Nobody's religious freedom is at stake. That's just ridiculous!" McCartney says. Is "[Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius going to come and close all the church doors? I mean, it's just foolishness."
Another member of that group is Jim Zogby, who has worked on human-rights issues overseas. He says the U.S. bishops were spoiling for a fight over social issues with the Obama administration.
"They declared war on the administration, and we the faithful are paying the price for it," Zogby says. "Our religious freedom, our ability to simply go to church, worship, feel a community, feel safe in that community" has been compromised.
"We're now being put in the middle of a partisan fight, and that's wrong."
His wife, Eileen, says Blessed Sacrament, with its mix of liberals and conservatives, has always put politics aside. Not now. At a recent parish meeting about religious freedom, people began attacking President Obama, she says, getting more and more heated.
"Until finally one person leaned forward and he said, 'Well, I have seen cars in our parking lot with Obama stickers on them, and they are complicit in all of this.' And I thought, 'Well I guess I'm not welcome here, because I have an Obama sticker on my car.' "
Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post Dispatch examines who's paying for the rallies, publications and other campaign expenses associated with this effort:
... while Catholic leaders frame the events as a fight for religious liberty, critics see signs of political partisanship and electioneering.
And questions over the financing of the bishops' campaign have caused those suspicions to multiply.
"The activities around the Fortnight for Freedom cost money," said Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington. "What groups are paying for this, and what's the accountability for that money?"