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Defending Our Inviolable Rights


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

The Knights will continue to build a culture of life and respond to threats against the free exercise of religion

Carl A. Anderson

During this year’s Supreme Convention, we were privileged to receive an extraordinary message from the Holy Father conveyed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Responding to the theme of our convention, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land,” the message said:

“At a time when concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom, the Knights of Columbus [has] worked tirelessly to help the Catholic community recognize and respond to the unprecedented gravity of these new threats to the Church’s liberty and public moral witness. By defending the right of all religious believers, as individual citizens and in their institutions, to work responsibly in shaping a democratic society inspired by their deepest beliefs, values and aspirations, your Order has proudly lived up to the high religious and patriotic principles which inspired its founding.”

Of course, the concern of the Holy Father regarding “unprecedented” and “new threats” to the free exercise of religion in America must be understood in light of the administration’s actions first in the Supreme Court case of Hosanna-Tabor vs. E.E.O.C. and then in its more recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring health insurance to cover contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacient drugs.

We have opposed the HHS mandate because it forces Catholics and all Americans to participate in actions that violate our conscience. The mandate also violates the right of Catholic employers — including the Knights of Columbus — not to be forced to pay for or be complicit with procedures and prescriptions that are intrinsically evil.

The Knights of Columbus is committed to ethical and sustainable business practices. As a company, we will not invest in other companies that are not morally or economically sustainable. If an investment does not work morally, we should not invest in it.

The HHS mandate, however, would force the Knights of Columbus as an employer to provide services and products as part of our employees’ health insurance that we would never invest in.

Ironically, the administration has exempted more than 190 million health plan participants and beneficiaries from its health insurance mandate — but it refuses to do so on the basis of religious liberty and rights of conscience.

Religious liberty is not simply another political issue. It cannot be compromised or recognized for some and denied to others. It is fundamental to the dignity of the human person and a basic human right. And like the right to life it, too, is inviolable.

Restricting the free exercise of religion for individuals and institutions is not just politics as usual; it is, like abortion, intrinsically evil, and no competing political consideration can make it less evil.

The U.S. bishops have made clear in their document Faithful Citizenship that we have a duty to avoid being complicit with intrinsic evil. They have even said, “It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens … may affect the individual’s salvation.”

As Knights, we have been steadfast in refusing to invest in companies that provide intrinsically evil products. We need to follow those same values when we vote. It is time that, as voters, we refuse to support politicians who promote intrinsically evil policies. And it is time for us to apply such a standard universally, to every candidate in every race for every office.

As I stated in my annual report to the convention, the Knights of Columbus will continue to pursue its great mission of building up a new culture of life and a civilization of love through its witness to our principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

We will continue to be what our Holy Father’s message described when it recognized the Knights of Columbus as “a pioneer in the development of the modern lay apostolate.”

But to do this we must continue

to have the freedom of religious exercise that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

It is my sincere hope that Catholics will defend our fundamental human rights to life and religious liberty in the courts and at the ballot box against those who would seek to make faithful Catholics complicit with intrinsically evil actions and policies.

Vivat Jesus!