There’s nothing wrong with the Catholic Church – or other churches – addressing the issue of abortion.  As you know, this country has a rich and welcomed history of turning to churches and houses of worship during the debate of the great moral issues of the day.  Let’s not forget the calls to action – to end slavery – and the powerful voices raised during the civil rights movement. 


Consider the call to action from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1965.  These were his words: “Legislation, executive orders, or judicial decrees will have to control the external effects of bad internal attitudes. Therefore, if we are to realize the American dream, we must continue to work through legislation. So it is necessary for Congress to pass meaningful legislation.”


That’s exactly what the Catholic Church did with its strong support of the Stupak/Pitts Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion in health care.  The Catholic Church should be congratulated, not criticized, for standing-up for the life of the unborn.  We heard from nearly 170,000 Americans – including many Catholics to be sure – who wanted a guarantee that the House health bill would prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions.


Barry, would you have criticized the Catholic Church if it had OPPOSED the Stupak/Pitts Amendment and it failed to clear the House?

Let the church speak out.  Don’t stifle free speech.  Religious leaders not only have a constitutional right to address the moral issues of the day – many believe they have a responsibility to do so.  And, if church members don’t agree with the position of the church, they can take it up with church leadership.  That’s always the way it’s worked.


Quite frankly, the church needs the ability to speak out more clearly – more forcefully – especially in the political realm.  The IRS restrictions on churches and non-profit organizations in the context of political campaigns need to go.  The fact is the law barring tax-exempt groups – including churches – from participating in political activity or face the loss of tax-exempt status has politically-motivated origins.


In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson sought political retribution against an opponent who was assisted in his campaign by two non-profit organizations.  LBJ pushed a little-known amendment that became law that essentially appointed the IRS as the ‘speech police’ for churches and non-profits.  It’s an issue we’ve debated here before and one that I’m sure we will revisit.


I am not surprised that you will be working to strip the pro-life language from the Senate bill.  You might not be surprised to learn that we will engage this issue, too, and work just as diligently to ensure that the pro-life remains in place.


With the Senate Majority Leader trying to fast-track health care with a promise to bring his package to the Senate floor next week, lawmakers are staking out their positions.  Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska says he won’t support any health care bill unless it includes pro-life guarantees. 


And, Congressman Bart Stupak, co-author of the House-passed pro-life Amendment, is working with colleagues in the Senate to keep the language in place.  


Barry, you want more regulation – this time aimed at lobbying done by religious organizations.  I want more free speech. Let the churches and their leaders engage the moral issues in both the legislative and political arenas.


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