INDIANAPOLIS -- "Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we are going to lose it," Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia told members of the Catholic Press Association on the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom, the 14-day period beginning Thursday that will focus the attention of the Catholic community on what the bishops say is government intrusion on religious conscience, beliefs and practices.
Catholics -- numbering around 1.1 million -- make up the largest single religious denomination in Minnesota, and they are gearing up for November when voters will decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
Currently, Minnesota law only permits marriage between one woman and one man. However, worry over potential legal challenges to that law compelled the legislature to propose a constitutional amendment.
ATLANTA -- On Thursday, Catholics across the country will amplify what is an already loud outcry from the hierarchy over the federal government's so-called contraception mandate.
With rallies, marches, lectures and special publications, the U.S. Catholic Bishop's Fortnight for Freedom campaign will seek to galvanize Catholic opposition to President Barack Obama's proposed mandate to require employers -- including religious institutions -- to provide free contraception insurance coverage to employees.
But while Catholic leaders frame the events as a fight for religious liberty, critics see signs of political partisanship and electioneering. 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?"
WASHINGTON -- Will religious voters have clout in November's presidential election? Will the Fortnight for Freedom called for by the U.S. bishops June 21 to July 4 become a political movement? Will it affect the Catholic vote? "We don't know yet," said one noted Catholic observer of U.S. politics, but he admitted to being concerned.
AMES, Iowa -- Republican and Catholic Congressman Steve King of Iowa should have known better than to disappoint a nun, especially a group of them who have come clean across the United States just to see him.
But that is exactly what he did Monday, leaving a small typed note taped on the door of his newly opened Ames office that said he was meeting with voters across his newly redrawn Iowa 4th Congressional District.
How much money does the U.S. government forgo by not taxing religious institutions? According to a University of Tampa professor, perhaps as much as $71 billion a year.
Ryan Cragun, an assistant professor of sociology, and two students examined U.S. tax laws to estimate the total cost of tax exemptions for religious institutions -- on property, donations, business enterprises, capital gains and "parsonage allowances," which permit clergy to deduct housing costs.
ATLANTA -- Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore acknowledged Wednesday that the U.S. bishops' "fortnight for freedom" campaign has come under heavy criticism in the secular media, in the blogosphere and by some Catholics as being a partisan political effort.
But the two-week period is meant to be free of politics and will emphasize church teaching on religious freedom, the chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom said in Atlanta.
WASHINGTON -- Catholics in dioceses across the country made their stand for religious freedom in a series of rallies Friday.
Organized by the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, based in Michigan, the rallies took place on the same day in an estimated 145 cities and all together drew about 63,000 participants.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Catholic church's challenges to the federal government's contraceptive mandate under the health care law is not an attempt to "throw" the presidential election in favor of one candidate or against another, said the chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The state Senate has passed a bill banning psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health practitioners from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation of any patient/client under 18 regardless of the teen's willingness to undergo that therapy or the willingness of a parent, guardian or other person to authorize such efforts.
The bill now moves to the Assembly, which has until Aug. 31 to send the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Supporters of the bill say so-called reparative or conversion therapy is harmful to minors and that the ban provides needed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
The ban does not extend to psychotherapies that aim to provide acceptance, support and understanding of clients who are attracted to a person of the same sex or who are exploring sexual identity as long as there is no effort to change orientation or reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions.