The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week held a major news conference in which they attempted to recast the current debates on hot-button issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights as a struggle to preserve “religious liberty” from a government and culture working to restrict the church’s rights, reports the New York Times.

From the Times:

The bishops have expressed increasing exasperation as more states have legalized same-sex marriage, and the Justice Department has refused to go to bat for the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that established the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

The Bishops also lamented a new Department of Health and Human Services rule that requires private insurers to pay for contraception. While churches are exempt from the mandate, Catholic hospitals and universities are not. They also decried that Catholic adoption agencies in several states have lost government funding for refusing to adopt to same-sex couples.

To the Bishops, these are prime examples of attacks on religious liberty. Yet as astutely noted on Daily Kos, the Catholic Bishops have severely misunderstood “religious liberty.”

There is apparently a new drive underway. By “new” I mostly mean “old”, because it is the same campaign as always, it has only shifted fronts. The premise is and always has been that if government does not act to enshrine one particular religious viewpoint into law, it is oppression against that religious group. It is the worst, dullest, and most hollow notion of “religious freedom” possible, because it of course demands that the government reject all possible religious groups and interpretations except for your own. It demonstrates an inherent bigotry on the part of the asserting party, yes, but it also demonstrates a particular philosophical stupidity, one so egregious that it naturally makes the listener suspect all of the rest of the claimant’s philosophical underpinnings. If you devote your life’s work to the supposed study and expression of ethics and morality, but obtusely misunderstand the meaning of the word liberty, then your life’s work seems to have been considerably less productive than you imagine it to be.

You can read much more here.

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