Posts in Category: Events

Chick-fil-A Day and the Victory for Marriage, Life and Freedom on Election Day

By Deacon Keith Fournier
John Paul II Fellow of the National Pro-Life Center
Project Director at the William Bentley Ball Project on Capitol Hill

August 2, 2012 – You sensed you were participating in something historic by simply purchasing a chicken sandwich. I do not doubt everyone wanted their chicken sandwich, especially after such a long wait. However, they were there, like me, for a reason much more important. They were making a collective statement of support for the restaurants’ willingness to stand up for marriage and family in the face of open hostility, ridicule and threats.

They were standing up for free speech and against political correctness. They were applauding with their purchase the courage shown by the owners of this restaurant. They did not back down in the face of forceful, even hateful, opposition from those who, while claiming to be tolerant have become so intolerant of those who do not agree with them.

The actions of this little David of a company facing the Goliath of hostility opposing their exercise of free speech ignited a firestorm of public support. Former Governor Mike Huckabee and former Senator Rick Santorum mobilized many to stand with Chick-fil-A. The great Protestant evangelist Billy Graham stood up for the company. Cardinal George of Chicago had the courage to take on the mayor of that city. He was joined by a multitude of other leaders from across the confessional spectrum who came to the defense of the restaurant.

In addition to countless families and singles across the USA, Poor Clare nuns made a statement on Aug. 1, 2012. Photo by NC Faith and Freedom Coalition.

However, what occurred on August 1, 2012 around the nation was unexpected. I suggest it holds great promise for the coming election. The real people of America, the salt of the earth, have had ‘ENOUGH!’ They came in in cars and on foot to Chick-fil-A restaurants everywhere. The reports of the numbers across the nation are astounding.

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not started by the owners of the restaurant chain. Mike Huckabee first mentioned it and then it took on a life of its own. It was propelled by real people who still believe that the values which informed the American experiment in ordered liberty are still the path to a future of freedom.

As I received my chicken I said to the smiling assistant at the window: “Who would have ever thought this would happen?” She responded with a smile: “It gives me hope for America.” Me too! If people will go to Chick-fil-A to make this kind of statement, they will go to the voting booth on November 8, 2012. There, they can do something far more important.

They can cast their vote to affirm life, defend marriage, protect freedom and promote the values which alone will ensure that America’s greatest days are still ahead of us. Chick-fil-A Day reveals the way to a victory for marriage, life and freedom on November 6, 2012. Maybe we should call Election Day “Freedom Appreciation Day” and mobilize these same “salt of the earth” people to change history…

Click here to read Deacon Fournier’s full article at Catholic Online.

Click here for Deacon Fournier’s previous article A Catholic Hooray for Chick-fil-A

A Catholic Hooray for Chick-fil-A: Stand in Solidarity for Marriage on Aug. 1

By Deacon Keith Fournier
John Paul II Fellow of the National Pro-Life Center

July 27, 2012 – Next Wednesday, August 1, I intend to eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich and participate in the National Day of Appreciation for Chick-fil-A.  I hope you join me and thousands of others in responding to the invitation of former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Mike Huckabee and Rev. Billy Graham and do the same.

Deacon Keith Fournier

I have long admired Chick-fil-A. It was founded over 30 years ago by an evangelical protestant Christian named Truett Cathy. His son Dan now runs the family-owned and family-values based company which now operates 1,600 stores. It has become a $4 billion a year enterprise. You can read about this good family and their genuine and living Christian faith here. You might also find their work in philanthropy of interest. Read about it here.

The restaurants do not open on Sunday in order to honor the Lord’s Day and allow their employees to do the same. They have resisted efforts to change not only this policy, but other pressures to compromise on their core convictions. The founders offer us all an example of moral coherence as Christians. They apply the great principles of their faith to their business practices. They do not fall prey to the separation between faith and life which can so quickly creep into the life of Christians.

Now Chick-fil-A is under a ferocious assault precisely because their president publicly affirmed their company support for true marriage and the family and society founded upon it. Dan Cathy expressed his deeply held religious convictions to the Baptist Press and literally all hell broke loose among some new cultural revolutionaries.

Among the most vocal opponents was Carlos Maza of Equality Matters, a homosexual equivalency activist group. He told the Washington Post that Dan Cathy’s position in defense of marriage, along with the contributions made by his family’s foundation to pro-life and pro-family groups, “solidifies Chick-fil-A as being closely aligned with some of the most vicious anti-gay voices in the country.” That is nonsense. To defend marriage does not equate to being “anti-gay.”

This orchestrated effort against Chick fil-A is an example of viewpoint discrimination parading as a concern for equality. It has now been embraced by two elected officials in Chicago. There Alderman Joe Moreno threatens to block the building of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his city. He has received support from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor told media “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.” This kind of government action is unconstitutional and should be challenged in court.

I was saddened to see that the mayor of my birthplace, Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas Menino, sent a letter to the CEO of Chick-fil-A in which he wrote: “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.” Just who is discriminating Mr. Mayor? So much for your claimed liberalism and regard for free speech; you are engaging in viewpoint censorship!

I am honored to stand with Gov. Huckabee, Sen. Santorum and others in eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich on Wednesday August 1. I ask the readers of Catholic Online to do join along. We are in good company and making an act of solidarity together for marriage and for free speech.

Rev. Billy Graham released a statement on Thursday in which he said, “I applaud the courage of Cathy and Chick-fil-A to take a bold stand for the biblical definition of marriage between a man and woman in a culture that has grown openly hostile to the Christian faith and its followers.”

I can only add a Catholic hooray for Chick-fil-A!

Read Deacon Fournier’s entire article at Catholic Online by clicking here.

Calling All Catholics: Join Our Urgent Mission!

July 24, 2012

Dear Friends,

While much of the nation bakes in summer heat, at the National Pro-Life Center our work among our elected and appointed officials in defense of Life is heating up as well. And you play a critical role in our efforts!

  • I am honored to announce I’ve been invited to address the sitting members of state supreme courts on the subject of religious liberty and the defense of conscience.

  • In addition to parish and diocesan responsibilities I’m traveling extensively in parish churches, commenting on the Supreme Court healthcare case and preparing Catholics to prayerfully and actively engage in the political process. I’m also assisting church ministries in passively resisting ANY healthcare action that violates our conscience as Catholics.

  • Every week our staff plays an important role in a values action team that meets in the U.S. Senate offices. This important team of key leaders prays for and strategizes about the issues impacting our nation and through these meetings our staff offers spiritual guidance and strategic consultation to our national policymakers.

But there is so much more that needs to be done – and we can’t do it without you! The abortion lobby in the U.S. still receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxpayer subsidies that allows them to channel millions into abortion and birth control propaganda.

We receive no public funding whatsoever. We are entirely dependent on your contributions to continue our work of giving lawmakers and federal judges the information, education and inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions.

At the National Pro-Life Center we are preparing a Friend of the Court brief against the federal mandate forcing Catholic and other ministries and missions to buy insurance that includes abortion inducing drugs, birth control and sterilization procedures.

We are also joining one of our National Pro-Life Center missionary partners in an unprecedented national effort to replace Planned Parenthood abortion mills with pro-life healthcare centers, offering women a true alternative to abortion. Stanton Healthcare Center in Idaho is the first clinic of its kind located right next to a Planned Parenthood center – and we directly support the Stanton effort.

But none of this is possible without you! We’re counting on you to help us carry out our vital missionary outreach by contributing now to our SUMMER MINISTRY FUND. Your special gift of $15 or more will help us enormously.

Quite frankly, these next two weeks will predictably be the lowest income weeks of our entire year – just at a time when our need is greatest. This is always a difficult time for us as so many of our friends enjoy vacations, travel, and have extended family time. We understand how important that is to everyone. At the same time, there’s never been a moment in history when ministry to our national leaders was more necessary.

That’s why I’m asking you to help us during these critical summer weeks as we work hard to build up our SUMMER MINISTRY FUND. We simply cannot do what we do without you!

In the next 8 days I must raise $18,000 to carry out our missionary programs. Your gift of $15, $25, $50, or $100 or more WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE in how much we can accomplish. Will you help us right now?

 To make your much needed, tax-deductible contribution of $10, $25, $50, or even $100 or more, click here.

I need you to stand with us during these summer months. With the nation baking in record heat, your generous gift will be like an oasis in the wilderness to us.

Thank you for your friendship, prayers, and support. As St. Paul said to his friends at Philippi, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).

Sincerely serving the Lord of Life,

Fr. Paul C.B. Schenck
Chair, The National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C.

July 4: Fortnight for Freedom Mass in Washington, D.C.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will host the Closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 12:10 PM in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church. The address is 400 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, D.C.  20017.
His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, will be the principal celebrant of the Mass. His Excellency, the outspoken Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, will give the homily – which is fitting in many ways, especially since the Declaration of Independence was signed in his home town.  The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, His Excellency Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, will concelebrate the Mass and deliver a message from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

The Closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom is free and open to the public. However, please be aware that only practicing Catholics in the state of grace may receive Holy Communion.

If you cannot attend in person, the July 4 Mass will be broadcast live nationwide on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and you may watch it online by clicking here. To attend Fortnight for Freedom events in your local area, see resource guides by clicking here.

The Fortnight for Freedom is 14 days of prayer organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the middle of it on June 28, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This, of course, is a great blow against religious liberty in America because, among other things, it requires people of goodwill to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and other immoral procedures. Furthermore, President Obama issued an executive order requiring all health insurance companies to provide these deadly drugs “free of charge.” As noted in our previous articles, Catholics are not fighting these dictates alone – other Christians, Jews, and even irreligious persons are united with us. See our statements on the Supreme Court ruling by clicking here.

Above, the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill features the image of “Christ in Majesty” from the Dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This portrait by Polish artist by Jan Henryk de Rosen is a magnificent reminder that Christ is King and God Almighty and sovereign over all nations. It’s a reminder that our very existence depends on Him and nothing can happen unless He permits it. It’s also a reminder that Christians should follow the example of the saints in fighting for the greater glory of God, which means protecting the rights of all human persons because we are made in the image and likeness of the Author of Life. July 5 update: See video of the Mass by clicking here.

In the following video, NPLC Chair Father Paul C.B. Schenck explains the roles of Church and State, our constitutional rights and why the HHS mandate is perilous to all people and what to do about it. Fr. Schenck gave this talk at a parish in his home diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Notices NPLC ‘Prayer Circles’

June 16, 2012 – As the world awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s healthcare law, Kyle Cheney of Politico wrote about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussing rumors and the intensity of public interest, including the prayer circles led by the National Pro-Life Center with partner Faith and Action:

“With a wry smile, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid waste Friday to all those rumors about the fate of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court.

“’Those who know don’t talk. And those who talk don’t know,’ she quipped Friday night at a conference hosted by the American Constitution Society at the Capital Hilton.

“Ginsburg said she was responding to a ‘steady stream of rumors and fifth-hand accounts’ about the court’s deliberations on the law.

“Careful not to tip her hand on the court’s ruling — expected in the next two weeks — Ginsburg described the oral arguments in the case as unprecedented for the number of ‘press conferences, prayer circles, protests and counterprotests’ that occurred on the courthouse steps.”

Click here for Cheney’s entire article.

The prayer circles to which she refers were organized by the National Pro-life Center with Faith and Action, which you may see at the following links:

Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer

Day 1 of Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer

The Schenck Brothers at the Obama Health Care Hearings

Rev. Rob Schenck on Being in the Supreme Court

Rev. Rob Schenck Makes News on His Knees

Urgent Supreme Court Update: Father Schenck Calls for Prayer

Please continue praying for the Supreme Court justices and our nation. Thank you!

Fr. Paul Schenck Blesses Visiting Sisters from Iraq

May 22, 2012 – NPLC Chair Father Paul Schenck and several NPLC allies welcomed Dominican Sisters from Mosul, Iraq to Faith and Action headquarters. Here Father blesses Mother Maria Hanna, O.P., general prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and Sister Dianna.
Father Schenck said, “We received them as special guests on behalf of the Christians of the United States. These are tremendously courageous women who are mortal danger, operating schools and maternity hospitals in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. They’re in the process of negotiating with the Iraqi government for the return of 80 of their schools that were nationalized under the regime of Saddam Hussein. They have 140 sisters in Baghdad and are growing, showing that the persecuted Church is the strongest Church.”

Mother Maria, general prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and Sister Dianna at Faith and Action's missionary center in Washington, D.C.

Fr. Paul Schenck leads Christian delegation welcoming Mother Maria and Sister Dianna of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena from Mosul, Iraq to Washington, D.C.

The Schenck Brothers at the Obama Health Care Hearings

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 26, 2012 — On the first day of the historic Supreme Court hearings over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama, Father Paul Schenck, chair of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, accompanied his twin brother, Reverend Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action and president of the National Clergy Council. Rob was the first person granted a ticket to hear the oral arguments. The next three tickets were granted to Paul; plus longtime allies Reverend Myke Crowder of the National Clergy Council; and Jordan Sekulow, Esq., executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Rob’s No. 1 ticket became a news story in and of itself. He and Father were featured on numerous media outlets, including C-SPAN (video below), about what they thought of Obama’s healthcare law and what they witnessed at the hearings.

Click here for Fr. Schenck in BloombergBusinessweek.

And here’s Fr. Schenck on C-SPAN — his interview begins about 25 minutes into the segment

Click here for video Rev. Rob Schenck Reports Just Before Entering the Supreme Court.

As Fr. Schenck and Rev. Schenck were inside the court, National Clergy Council members knelt on the ground outside praying for God’s mercy on our nation. Click here to see an AP photo essay in the Kansas City Star featuring Pastor Mark Morrow of the CrossWalk Community Church in Williamsburg, Virginia (center) reading from his Bible with Pastor Robert Turill of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Peggy Nienaber of Faith and Action and the National Clergy Council.

Immediately upon exiting the hearings, the Schenck brothers were interviewed by a pool of reporters. Click here for Fr. Paul Schenck in Kaiser Health News.

Outside the Supreme Court, a coalition of groups yelled, marched, played loud music and made speeches in favor of Obama’s healthcare law. One group claimed to be “People of Faith for Health Care.” Now, of course people of faith are for health care. But mandated insurance, abortion drugs, and penalties for non-compliance are not health care. So Peggy Nienaber, chief of program for Faith Action, had a chance to converse with some people holding these signs. As it turned out, none could name his choice of religion or a church where he worshiped God. Most likely, as reported by the New York Times and explained by Rev. Mahoney, these demonstrators were part of President Obama’s efforts to imitate our Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer vigils.

After members of this group spoke to media, Rob defended our First Amendment right to religious freedom before the TV cameras with Fr. Schenck and other National Clergy Council members surrounding him.

Here they are on C-SPAN

Fr. Schenck with reporters






























For more about the Schenck brothers at the first day of these historic hearings, please click here for the corresponding report at our partner organization Faith and Action and please pray for justice at the court!

Update: Please see more details from our partner organization, Faith and Action, by clicking here.




Day 1 of Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 25, 2012 – Some 200 faithful Americans assembled for Day 1 of Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer.

Rev. Parick Mahoney preaching at Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer

Our longtime partner Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition led the two-hour vigil and, at certain points of prayer, asked us to humble ourselves by kneeling before the Lord God because the site would turn “into a circus” as the Supreme Court hears lawsuits against President Obama and his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Faith and Action’s Chief of Program Peggy Nienaber and Supporter Relations Coordinator Patty Bills welcomed clergy and pilgrims, and assisted Rev. Mahoney. Patrick’s wife, Katie Kathleen Hennessey Mahoney, sang Christian songs. And Greg Cox of our communications team was on hand as well.

Rev. Mahoney opened the ceremonies by recognizing those who had attended the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies on Friday.

He said, “But now we are coming to pray – to humble ourselves before God and asking God to intervene on what is arguably the most important case before this court since the Roe v. Wade decision.

“And so we are coming before God and asking God to superintend.

“Begin with this: The scriptures say, ‘This day I call the heavens and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; I say chose life.’ God says, “Now choose life – so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord, your God. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him, for the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 30)

“To the court, God has set before them, over the next three days of arguments, life or death. We pray that this court chooses life.”

Katie and Rev. Patrick Mahoney listen to Rev. Myke Crowder

Reverend Myke Crowder, pastor of Christian Life Center in Layton, Utah, came to represent the National Clergy Council.

Rev. Crowder said, “Now our focus today is exclusively prayer for the justices, along with the lawyers that are arguing the case – and especially, and most importantly, for the God-given right which is to practice our faith according to the dictates of our consciences and not the dictates of government or any other human agency.”

Rev. Crowder further prayed for President Obama and everyone assisting the Supreme Court justices.

Rev. Mahoney then read “Prayer for the Poor” by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In keeping with that prayer, he named each of the Supreme Court justices and asked the Lord to give them clarity; he also requested healthcare reform that doesn’t violate the Constitution and “provides true justice and care for every American.”

He told the crowd that as part of a public relations campaign, President Obama and the White House have attempted to organize their own prayer vigil at the Supreme Court. Someone from media had asked him if the opposing vigils were like two groups of fans praying for two sports teams.

“We are praying the First Amendment and religious liberty will be protected and honored,” said Mahoney. “This is not about a basketball team. We are praying that innocent lives are not destroyed and we don’t have to pay for this.”

He prayed for President Obama and Congress.

Patty led the pilgrims in laying 3,300 flowers around the court to represent the number of babies aborted every day in America.

Rev. Pierre Bynum preaching

As the pilgrims knelt around the court near the flowers, Reverend Pierre Bynum, chaplain for the Family Research Council, prayed aloud for all public officials and the pastors of America. He said, “The action of the people of God in America is even more important than that of all of our elected leaders.”

He said pastors are most important because they are supposed to preach and teach the truth, they are supposed to mobilize their flocks to do God’s will in all things.

Referring to President Obama’s law and mandates to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, Rev. Bynum prayed, “Let the power and Spirit of God come upon your pastors to cause them to teach and to preach like they’ve never taught before. Lord, we are on the verge of what could be the largest expansion of abortion since Roe verses Wade.”

He asked God to forgive His church for failing to rise up against the Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion 39 years ago. He asked the Lord to help everyone repent and fight for religious liberty, the foundation of human rights.

Father Marcel Guarnizo leading prayer. Peggy Nienaber stands to the right.

Father Marcel Guarnizo, a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. led the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

The refrain to this prayer is: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Throughout the vigil, many passersby stopped to listen and some joined in the prayers.

Members of media included radio, photographers, and TV reporters from local stations and networks.

Click here for AP’s photo gallery.

Click here for a Washington Times photo.

Father Paul Schenck, chair of the National Pro-Life Council on Capitol Hill, and his twin brother, Reverend Rob Schenck, the president of Faith and Action, will be at the Supreme Court on Monday.

In fact, the New York Times interviewed Rob and apparently persons waiting in line for tickets to the hearings praised Faith and Action. Click here for “Waiting (and Sleeping) in Line, for View of Health Care History.”

For the vigil schedule, please see March 25-28: Encircle the Supreme Court with Prayer.

Fr. Paul and Deacon Keith Rally For Religious Freedom: The William Bentley Ball Religious Freedom Project Launched

By Deacon Keith Fournier

WASHINGTON, DC (National Pro-Life Center) – On Friday, March 23, 2012, Fr. Paul Schenck, the founder and chairman of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill (NPLC) and priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, stood with more than 1,000 concerned citizens in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

As the John Paul II Fellow of the NPLC and a deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, I stood with hundreds of others in Norfolk, Virginia, the city next my home in Chesapeake. We were joined together in a band of solidarity with thousands of others participating in the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies in the United States.

There were 140 rallies held on March 23, 2012. It is only the beginning. We all gathered in collaborative citizen Action in response to an unjust and unconstitutional Edict issued by On January 20, 2012 by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The mandate requires all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs, and contraception in their health care plans. At risk is the future of the American experiment in ordered liberty and we will not cease our work until this horrid HHS Mandate is rescinded.

A new freedom movement has been birthed in the United States of America. It is authentically ecumenical and interreligious. It is not a part of any organized political party. It cannot be dismissed with the limiting political labels used these days to disparage those who share a common concern over the erosion of the very foundation of our freedoms. This is a citizen response to the growing hostility toward – and threats against – the first freedom, religious freedom.

The alleged exemption provided for religious employers did not cover hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, outreaches to the poor and many other vital expressions of our Catholic faith and mission. The purported accommodation which followed was a fraud, a shell game, which accomplished nothing. When the Mandate was recorded in the Federal Register, nothing had changed.

Catholics, like many other Christians, believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands a response which goes beyond the walls of our Church buildings. We are our brother and sister’s keeper. We do not reach out to people in need because they are Catholic. We reach out to people in need because we are Catholic. Our work in the public square, efforts to elevate the culture and history of service rooted in the love of charity – offered to all men and women for the common good – are at the heart of our understanding of our mission as Christians.

This HHS Edict is a violation of the Free Exercise of Religion which is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF! That Right to the Free Exercise of religion has been called the “FIRST FREEDOM” in the American tradition for good reason. It is a foundation for all of our freedoms. Religious Freedom is a fundamental human right.

The Birth Certificate of our Nation, the Declaration of Independence, affirmed the existence of inalienable rights and self evident truths. Those Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness are endowed by our Creator and not conferred by a Government. They cannot – they will not – be taken away by the Federal Government.

Religious Liberty is at the heart of the understanding of Right to Liberty in the Western tradition. If this Mandate is not rescinded, it will require all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover sterilization, abortion inducing drugs, and contraception in their health care plans or face the boot of fines and penalties.

The fines and penalties would have the practical result of closing many of the Church’s outreaches, ministries and institutions of care and compassion.  This HHS Mandate not only injures the Church and religious institutions it injures American society. It harms the common good. It is an unjust law.

The Federal Government of the United States is trying to force us to act against deeply held religious convictions and to violate conscience. The claim that such an edict is an unjust law is rooted in the western understanding of the nature of law itself.This is the firm foundation upon which the American founders grounded their insistence that there are inalienable rights, endowed upon us all by a Creator, which cannot be taken away by any civil government. Positive law must reflect the Natural Law.

Saint Augustine said of an unjust law, “For it seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all.” Saint Thomas Aquinas explained, “Human law is law only in virtue of its accordance with right reason: and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.” In doing so, they echoed Cicero, Aristotle and Plato and the entire Natural Law Tradition.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, gave this explanation of how one determines whether a law is unjust, “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

This Edict came one day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of US Bishops during their visit. He warned them of the growth of radical secularism in the United States and the accompanying threats to the fundamental Right to Religious Freedom so integral to the American experiment.

So, a massive resistance movement has been birthed. A New Freedom Movement is responding to this awful HHS mandate. In over 140 Cities rallies of every size, including people from every walk of life, were held on March 23, 2012. Mark that day! It is only the beginning. Christians from every faith community, along with other people of faith and all people of good will who cherish our first freedom, stood up for Religious Freedom.

22 Catholic Bishops spoke at these rallies; many others unable to attend sent letters of strong support. Every single Catholic Bishop in the United States is unified in opposition to this egregious mandate. Leaders of many other Christian communities stood with us, as did people of other religious faiths or no particular religious faith at all. What we all held in common was our bedrock commitment to protecting the fundamental human right to religious freedom.

There is a silver lining in the cloud of the threat to this fundamental freedom. This HHS Edict has given rise to a tide of resistance which holds great promise for the future. We have also found one another once again. We are standing together in a movement of solidarity and citizen action which holds great promise for the future of this nation and the West, struggling as they both are with the loss of a moral compass provided by the influence of the values informed by faith.

We are engaged in a struggle on several fronts. We using the Courts. Lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as defendants. They allege that the mandate is a violation of the First Amendment and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  AND IT IS!

We are also supporting every legislative effort. There have been legislative responses, but, as of yet they have been unsuccessful. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act was introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467).  It aims to ensure that all who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

Drawing from the history iof other great human and civil rights movements in our history as a free people, we are engaged in citizen action. On March 23, 2012 we gathered in rallies in 140 places, a seed of what is yet to come. America Citizens, standing together against an unjust federal mandate, exercising our other fundamental constitutional rights such as the Rights to Free Speech, Free Association and Free Assembly – and the Right to Petition our Government for a Redress of grievances, we are defending the fundamental human right to the first freedom, Religious Freedom. We will succeed because our cause is just.

Another part of the response which Fr Paul and I have undertaken, in response to the urgency of the  hour is the launch of the “William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive” and the “William Bentley Ball Religious Freedom Project”.   As a constitutional lawyer who dedicated much of my career to public interest law to the life, liberty and family, I am honored to serve with Fr Paul Schenck in this project. William Bentley Ball, the great Catholic Constitutional Lawyer, was – and still is – one of my great heroes.

At this urgent hour in our Nation’s history, the work which Bill Ball began must continue. He was a champion of Religious Freedom as the First Freedom. He left a legacy reflecting his lifetime of service to his Church and country which includes his research notes, numerous awards, writings, photos, poems, letters, artifacts and accomplishments.  This priceless material is now housed in the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive on Capitol Hill, located at 109 2nd Street NE in Washington, DC, directly across the street from the US Supreme Court.

The Memorial Archive was dedicated on the weekend on which we gathered for another vital citizen Rally, to commemorate the horrid decisions of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton which stripped away from the civil law of the United States the fundamental Natural law Right to life of our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race, their mother’s womb. Bill Ball was a courageous defender of the Fundamental Human Right to life.

Our hope and prayer is that this Memorial will become a point of destination for many. The William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive exists to honor his work and to inspire, equip and encourage people to continue his legacy. It will provide a resource base for the continuing work of defending the first freedom, Religious Freedom, to which William Bentley Ball III dedicated his inspiring life and career of service to his faith and his Nation.

The Nation William Bentley Ball II loved and served needs Catholic lawyers who, along with other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will can articulate an authentic Natural Law Jurisprudence as the path to providing a lasting defense of the inalienable rights which our founders believed in and enshrined in our founding documents.

These rights cannot be conferred by government and must not be denied by government. That is why the William Bentley Ball project will also build a living legacy to this great man.There is an unfinished work which we must be about – defending religious freedom as a fundamental human right and the first freedom.

On Friday, March 23, 2012, as I stood in Norfolk, Virginia at the “Stand for Religious Freedom Rally”, I thought of Bill Ball. I knew, in the communion of saints, he stood with us. Fr Paul and I will be writing much more about the William Bentley Ball project, so, stay tuned.

Fr. Paul Schenck Addresses the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in Philadelphia

March 23, 2012 — Father Paul Schenck, chair of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, and his twin brother, Reverend Rob Shenck, president of Faith and Action, were featured speakers at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in Philadelphia where 1,000 people gathered to declare their support for the First Amendment right of the Church to exercise our faith free from government interference. At the same time the Philadelphia rally was taking place, one of Faith and Action’s missionaries and director of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev. Pat Mahoney, led over 1,000 people gathered in front of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Stand up for Freedom Rally in Washington, D.C.

To view photos on MSNBC about the rally, click here.  These are great photos; it is unfortunate, however, that the title of the photos demonstrates that MSNBC completely missed the point in their description of why Americans across the nation gathered during the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rallies.

Click here for CBS  local coverage quoting Fr. Schenck.

Click here for Fr. Schenck in the Temple News.

Patricia Januzzi’s video of Father Schenck’s prayer and speech released on May 31

AP interviews Fr. Paul Schenck

Rev. Rob Schenck’s Philadelphia speech

Click here for Rob and Paul in CatholicPhilly, the archdiocese’s official newspaper.

And here is the text of Fr. Schenck’s inspiring message to those gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia:

When my Uncle Abraham, as a young boy, was abducted by Cossacks and held for ransom, his Jewish family decided it was time to flee the Western Pale of old Russia and undertake a harrowing journey seeking political, economic and religious freedom here in America. My father was among the first children born on free soil. My mother’s people, English Catholics, also found political and religious liberty here.

This is why for me it is so troubling what the administration in Washington is doing, violating our unique guarantee of religious freedom, “enshrined in the Constitution” by mandating that Catholics and others violate their faith and cherished beliefs. We must firmly resist and insist that our religious freedom be restored!

In their statement of March 14, the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described the controversy which engulfs us: “This is about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.”

Government is not competent to define religious ministry and mission. The HHS mandate forces a new distinction—something unknown before, either in our tradition or in the law —distinguishing between worship, and charitable service to our neighbors.  The Lord Jesus commanded us to love God in worship, and to love our neighbor in service. These include the poor, the homeless, the sick, students (particularly in our inner cities as well as those preparing for service professions), and others in need, of any faith…or none.

Any law that requires us not to comply with one of these commandments violates our freedom of religion.

Such a law must be rejected, for it undermines the highest principle of our governance enshrined in the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, presented 223 years ago by James Madison right here at Liberty Hall. If the HHS restriction of religion stands, it will spread like poison throughout the body politic, eviscerating our enduring tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity and the defense of conscience. Our religious institutions and communities share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right never “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [our] beliefs.”

Conscientious citizens, and religious communities who only seek to live according to their faith and their moral values, now face a hostile government mandate requiring them to consent to, and act contrary to their sacred beliefs and to their consciences!

This is unprecedented in federal law, which has protected the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. In doing this, the government has dangerously strayed from its competence, and has threatened the very core of our civic code. This perverse “mandate” must be resisted and the Right to Religious Freedom and Conscience, which are beyond the reach of any government, much less one which claims to be Democratic, must be protected and defended!

In the words of our bishops, “The Catholic Church has consistently supported the rights of religious freedom and conscience, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we will continue to vigorously do so”! God bless you and God save the United States of America!

Click here for CBN’s report featuring Rev. Mahoney in Washington, D.C.

Click here to read an excellent editorial in the Washington Post by Mary Rose Somarriba about the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally in Washington, D.C.