The first amendment to the Constitution reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Here's a list of recent examples of the government directly interfering with or penalizing religious institutions based on their beliefs, even though they had previously been successful in serving a societal need. Example stories follow each in parentheses, although you can find these stories in many news sites.
- Aug. 2011 - The State of Illinois defunded Catholic Charities for not placing foster children in the homes of gay couples, despite the fact that Catholic Charities deferred such couples to other charities that did provide the service. (see Chicago Tribune)
- Oct. 2011 - The Obama Administration's Dept. of HHS defunded the Migration and Refugee Services organization run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The MRS rescued victims of human and sex trafficking, mostly women and children, but would not provide contraception and abortions. (see Catholic News Agency)
- Jan. 2012 - The Obama Administration's Dept. of EEOC attempted to argue in front of the Supreme Court that the state could tell churches what religious ministers they must hire. The Court struck down their position 9-0. (see Christianity.com)
- Jan. 2012 - The Obama Administration's Dept. of HHS gave Catholic and other religious organizations a legal ultimatum to offer abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives in their insurance plans against their beliefs. (see previous coverage here at The Catholic Voyager)
- Jan. 2012 - The State of Washington continues to try to force pharmacies to offer potentially abortifacient drugs against their beliefs. (see National Catholic Register)
- (EDIT 4/2/2012) 2010 - The U.S. Supreme Court supported a California law school that denied a religious group normal campus group privileges because it did not condone its own group leaders to support homosexual lifestyles. The court departed from several related precedent cases, including one in 1984 in which Justice William Brennan said: "There can be no clearer example of an intrusion into the internal structure or affairs of an association than a regulation that forces the group to accept members it does not desire." (see USA Today)
Other stories of note:
- May 2011 - Although not aggression against the Church directly, the Obama Administration threatened the state of Indiana if it did not give federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S. (see previous coverage here at The Catholic Voyager)
(UPDATE 10/23/12: An appeals court has declared that the State of Indiana must fund Planned Parenthood. ACLU lawyers on behalf of PP insist the federal dollars do not go for abortions, but that claim is not entirely forthcoming as reviewed during an audit of PP last year.)
- Feb. 2012 - It seems an Obama-appointed official within the Army attempted to prevent a Bishop's letter to be read by Catholic chaplains regarding the HHS ultimatum. (see Examiner.com)
- EDIT (3/12/12) - Mar. 2012 - The Obama Administration revoked Texas' federal funding for women's health because Texas recently excluded Planned Parenthood funding at the state level due to the numerous abortions it provides. (see Kaiser Health News for several article summaries)
- EDIT (5/3/12) - May 2012 - In SB 1172, the state of California seeks to regulate reparative therapy for persons with homosexual attraction who willingly desire to receive therapy. As part of the regulation, patients who seek such treatment would be forced to sign a statement, assenting to a number of the state's claims, including, "There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person's sexual orientation." Minors would be forbidden to receive reparative therapy regardless of their desire to receive it, and regardless of their parents' desire. (see California Catholic Daily) For a radio discussion and interview of licensed therapist David Pickup who shared success stories and scientific studies to the contrary, download this hour MP3 from Kresta in the Afternoon radio show on 5/1/12).
- EDIT (5/4/12) - May 2012 - A Texas court overturned the state's effort to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state's "Women's Health Program." According to the court, the state cannot exclude the abortion organization from the program. (see LifeNews)
- EDIT (9/24/12) - April 2012 - In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the EEOC ruled that a Catholic diocese discriminated against a teacher who embraced a form of in vitro fertilization, a medical procedure considered intrinsically sinful by the Church for its separation of procreation with conjugal love. (see CBS News)
The articles about "defunding" one may argue are legal maneuvers by the government since they are not legally bound to fund any private organization. But when coupled with the same federal government's defense of Planned Parenthood, and the pattern of opposition to the Church at seemingly every opportunity, and the fact that those defunded organizations condemned on religious grounds the same government's advancement of contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortifacients, it is by no means unreasonable to argue that the defunded organizations were defunded based on their religious beliefs, and therefore persecuted.
One comment I see in reaction to the Bishops' and other citizens' opposition to things like the HHS ultimatum are that it is an "attack against women" or some such. Yet in incidents like the defunding of MRS, which rescued women and children from sex trafficking, I did not see the same cries of anti-woman directed toward the government that impaired that effort, leading credence to the conclusion that cries of anti-woman directed against the Church are politically charged.
The clearest violations of religious freedom remain the federal government's (and similar story in the state of Washington) ultimatum via the HHS for Church and religious organizations to provide abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization insurance against their moral beliefs. The federal government's attempt to interfere with what ministers a religious body must hire also was a clear violation of religious freedom, as even the Supreme Court agreed unanimously, 9-0.
UPDATE: 2/22/12 The Supreme Court of the State of Washington voted against the state trying to force pharmacies to offer drugs against their beliefs.