See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
On Monday I was in the United States Supreme Court for the reading of the opinion in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case, in which friends of ours, the Green family, with the Hahns, a Mennonite family from Bucks County, challenged the so-called “HHS mandate”, which required private business owners to provide insurance coverage for potential abortion-inducing drugs or face bankrupting fines. The Court struck down the mandate as an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty rights. The result is, personal business owners and employers, and religious institutions such as Catholic charities and schools, will not be required to violate their religious or moral beliefs. There was rejoicing and thanksgiving (and angry protesting) outside the Court.
In addition to my duties here in the Diocese, I serve as founding director of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, the only Christian mission at the US Supreme Court. Our mission is to give the Justices, their staffs and members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, the information, education and inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions. We are not litigators or lobbyists (whew!) – we are evangelists – proclaiming the Gospel of Life on Capitol Hill and wherever public policy is made.
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
I was not raised Catholic. In fact, I, my wife Becky (we’ve been married for 36 years) and our children (we have nine), have only been Catholics for ten years. I was raised Jewish. My father was the first born generation to Eastern European Jewish refugees who fled the pogroms (the persecutions) of the early twentieth century.
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 liberty here in America. My father was among the first children born on free soil. My mother’s people also found political and religious freedom here.
…the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
The Hobby Lobby case, and many other US Supreme Court cases, are very important to me. That includes my own 1997 US Supreme Court case – Rev. Schenck v Pro-Choice, in which I challenged a federal court order prohibiting prayers and sidewalk counseling on public sidewalks near abortion businesses or abortion-minded people. The High Court struck down that order as a violation of my First Amendment right of free speech – then struck down similar restrictions in Arizona, California and Colorado. But the Court left one restriction in place, until last Thursday when, referencing my case, it unanimously struck down all restrictions on pro-life speech in public places. But it was twenty-four years from the time my brother and I and three others challenged the federal ban at abortion clinics by passing out bibles with a hopeful message, a pamphlet called “Peace with God”, and helpful referrals for medical, housing and financial support to women and their companions. We did this because we were (and are) convinced God is the author of life, and every human life is precious to him! My case lasted 7 years; I spent a month in federal prison, a year and half under house arrest and it cost us $778k before the Supreme Court voted 8-1 in my favor!
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
We often face problems and difficulties that seem utterly insurmountable, and we just cannot see how we can make it through them! There were times in the course of my case that I wondered how I would survive. When I flagged Becky would have a word from Scripture or a prayer that would hold me up. Come to me, Jesus says, when life threatens to overwhelm you, come to me! Whatever it is you’re facing today, turn to Jesus: you will find rest for yourselves – his yoke is easy, his burden is light. Amen.