As the bishops of the United States gather for their summer meeting tomorrow, the on-going debate over religious liberty will dominate the proceedings. Better to say, the debate over how to proceed in vindicating religious liberty will dominate the proceedings. All the bishops are vitally concerned about the various encroachments on religious liberty that can be seen in our culture today. Only the editors of the New York Times and a few other fellow travelers of the Obama administration continue to insist this is a “phony” issue.
It seems to me that there are two central questions the bishops must address. First, regarding the HHS mandate for the inclusion of contraception in all preventive care plans, the bishops must decide if they will insist that all employers receive a religious exemption or only those employers that are in some meaningful sense religious institutions. Second, how will the bishops talk about the issue of religious liberty and will their speech try to guarantee that the issue is not misused to achieve partisan ends.