The impact of Obama silencing military chaplains

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Enough was already enough with this administration trampling conscience rights and religious liberties protected in the Constitution. Than he clamped down on speech rights of Army chaplains, for crying out loud.

And this man wrote a book about audacity.

Obama silenced chaplains last weekend.

In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army.

A statement released this afternoon — which happens to be the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester, on which four chaplains lost their lives – from the Archdiocese for Military Services explains:

On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.

The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit.  The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.

Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.
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Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.

So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in?

Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?

The news got around a bit, though not widely, that the military was telling chaplains what they could and couldn’t say about the administration.

All the bishops in the country sent out a letter to be read in their parishes promising that the Church “cannot-and will not-comply with this unjust law.”

Even Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is in charge of Catholic military chaplains sent out the same letter. 

But after he did, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent out another communication forbidding Catholic priests to read the letter, in part because it seemed to encourage civil disobedience, and could be read as seditious against the Commander-in-Chief.

More than one Catholic chaplain who spoke to us off the record confirmed that many chaplains disobeyed this instruction and read the letter anyway. Others sought further instructions from their Archbishop.

Now after much behind-the-scenes bureaucratic wrangling, a new version of the letter will be read, one that was edited of the language about “unjust laws.”

A new statement issued this afternoon from Archbishop Broglio’s office acknowledged the interference this way:

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.

“Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.  Additionally, the line: “We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.

It’s an issue that Catholic chaplains are taking very seriously in private. We obtained a confidential letter sent to the chaplains that  prepares priests to contact the Military Archdiocesan lawyer in case of more interference or any punishment.

“The Archdiocese believes that any attempt to keep a chaplain from freely teaching and preaching the Catholic faith, for which you were endorsed, is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

This story reached a higher profile in the news on Tuesday.

The Obama administration has been accused of telling Catholic military chaplains what they can and cannot say from their pulpits after the Army ordered Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop.

The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.

The letter called on Catholics to resist the policy the Obama Administration’s policy that would force institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and “abortifacients.” The Catholic Church believes the mandate represents an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.

This is blowing up on the Obama adminsitration. It’s ‘a bridge too far.’

“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” read a statement provided to Fox News from the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

According to the AMS, Archbishop Broglio had a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

The issue raises a question among critics: did administration official tell the Catholic Church what it could and could not say in the pulpit?

It follows suit, after telling the Catholic Church what it could no longer do in practice according to its moral beliefs.

There were late reports Tuesday that the administration was starting to think about walking this back, after the blowup. That has yet to be determined. But this is going to loom large in the elections. Obama is losing the friends he had in the Church, and he can’t afford that.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, a trade group representing Catholic hospitals that defied church bishops to provide critical support for Obama’s health care law and is now fighting the birth control requirement, said she thinks the administration is starting to feel the pressure.

“I do know many people who care about this administration and this president and the good works that Catholic organizations have done are raising this issue,” said Sister Carol Keehan. “I do know the administration is concerned. This was never done with the intent of creating a huge problem for the Catholic Church, but it certainly ended up doing that.”

Stay tuned.

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