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Conscience Magazine

Second Fortnight for Freedom Reflects Bishops’ Values, Not Those of Lay Catholics

September 16, 2013

July 4 marked the closing of the second “Fortnight for Freedom,” the initiative spearheaded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) encouraging dioceses across the country to raise awareness about “threats to religious liberty” the bishops perceive in the US.

Although there was less media coverage of the Fortnight this year compared to 2012, a major focus remained the inclusion of contraception coverage in most employee insurance plans. As part of the proceedings, the bishops organized an open letter, “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” protesting the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirements for private businesses. As Religion News Service noted, the Catholic signatories were almost entirely from the ultraconservative wing of the church, such as Ave Maria University and the Franciscan University at Steubenville, and Evangelical groups, with few or no representatives from Jewish denominations, mainline Protestant congregations, Eastern Orthodox churches, Islam or secular organizations holding a pluralistic view of religious freedom.

The USCCB added same-sex marriage as a major target for the 2013 event, even though the bishops have experienced key losses on state-level marriage equality votes. In Archbishop William E. Lori’s closing homily, the Supreme Court’s decision to rescind the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision forbidding federal recognition of same-sex marriage seemed far from settled, as he urged his listeners, “I beg you not to be silenced or unfairly shamed into remaining silent when it comes to supporting marriage.” A March poll by Quinnipiac University found that Catholics continue to support same-sex marriage at margins greater than the rest of the American public.