Bishop Cordileone: How Dare the Government

“Get the Government Out of Our Church”

A religious freedom rally in San Francisco on Friday attracted nearly 500 people from throughout the Bay Area vehemently opposed to a new federal requirement that insurers provide free contraception to workers.

Some waved flags. Others waved rosary beads. Many shouted “unbelievable” as speakers outlined the controversial policy in the national health reform law.

“This affects all of us as Americans, because our first freedom is freedom of religion,” said Salvatore Cordileone, Bishop of Oakland.

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

“How dare the government define for us our religious mission?” he said. “Yes, get the government out of our church.”

Initially, the regulation required employers to cover birth control and other preventive services for women without a co-pay or deductible beginning in August.

Churches were exempt, but organizations affiliated with religious institutions such as charities, universities and hospitals, were not.

One of the reasons such organizations did not qualify for the religious exemption is that they provide service to everyone, including people who are outside of the church.

After taking heat from Republicans, the Catholic Church and others, President Barack Obama sought to end the furor on Feb. 10 with a revised policy permitting religious-based employers to opt out of the birth control requirement.

If they do that, their employees would still have access to free contraception because the requirement would shift instead to the institution’s insurance company.

The change appeased some, but religious leaders at the Friday rally made it clear they still believe their religious freedoms have been violated.

The San Francisco event was one of 140 such rallies that took place across the nation on the second anniversary of the national health reform law.

George Wesolek, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said he was upset that the federal government has a very narrow definition of a religious institution that does not include the orphanages, health clinics and schools that many organizations operate.

“Mr. Obama, let Christians practice their faith as they wish,” he said. “Mr. Obama, let Catholics be Catholics. We are not going to be confined to our churches. That is not our mission.”

Participants carried signs stating “Conscience matters” and “I always thought religious freedom was my American birthright.”

Other signs were more pointed, such as “What’s next? Comrade Obama?”

Denise Clark, who attends St. Isidore church in Danville, attended the rally with members of her Bible study group.

“We’ve got to speak up now about having government over-controlling freedom of religious rights,” she said. “If we don’t speak up now, there may come a time when we have no chance to say no.”

On the outskirts of the gathering, about a dozen protesters chanted “Not the church. Not the state. Women will decide their fate” and held up signs such as “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.”

The birth control requirement has drawn praise from many women’s groups.

“Birth control is essential health care for women — period,” said Adrienne Verrilli, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific, who did not attend the rally. She noted that 99 percent of sexually active women have used contraception at some point in their lives.

Despite the national uproar, the policy is expected to have little effect in California because state law already requires most employers that provide insurance to cover contraception.

At the rally, Father Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press told the crowd that when Obama was elected, “some people thought they were voting for a Messiah.”

“Last month, he performed a true miracle,” Fessio said. “He united all of the Catholic bishops in the U.S.”

Sandy Kleffman covers health. Contact her at 925-943-8249. Follow her at

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3 comments to Bishop Cordileone: How Dare the Government

  • Esther Marie Ventura Ferencz

    I am sick of seeing attacks unending on my Catholic Faith, and priests, by someone GAY or Lesbian ..
    On this article by Bishop C. Came a gay man trotting out his snide hate….HE is but one of 10% of the entire 300.000, 000 million U S citizens. AND he and his are gonna preach TO OUR CHURCH and OTHER CHURCHS? I dont thinkkkkkkkkkkkkkk so. Life is a gift…Homosexuality is not a ‘born’ happening. Its cultivated by whom you associate with, who you listen to. Lastly its formed by making the CHOICE! If any homosexual people scream HATE? ITs time we scream HATE back at em, as we are non stopped attacked by members of this 10%. Soon hate speech lawsuits from people of faith will be flying in the faces of GLBTs. I PROMISE THAT!

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