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bioethicsAlan Sears, center, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, talks with Peter Wolfgang, president of the Family Institute of Connecticut, left, and Deacon Tom Davis, associate director of the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, following a bioethics lecture Mr. Sears presented at the college Oct. 5. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

CROMWELL – Taking the Obama Administration to task for what he considers its assault on the values and freedoms of Americans, Alan Sears, one of the leading legal advocates for religious liberty, urged an audience attending a bioethics lecture to "take a stand" for issues that preserve life and freedom.

"This administration is waging a war on everything our Founding Fathers held dear, trying to destroy the heart of America, its rich heritage of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," said Mr. Sears, president, CEO and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization that works to defend religious liberty, marriage and human life.

"This administration has turned the purpose of government on its head," he continued. "No longer is its purpose to protect and defend our religious liberty. Rather, it is now becoming a tyrannical tool used to undermine our freedoms and eradicate our conscience."

Mr. Sears made his comments at the annual Pope John Paul II Bioethics Lecture on Oct. 5 at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

He explained that when ADF began in 1993, the pressing issues of the day were defending religious freedom, sanctity of life and marriage. But he noted that it was "just the tip of the iceberg."

 

"We had no idea that within two decades, America would be faced with some of the most challenging threats to religious liberty and the family in our nation’s history," he said, threats "from our own government, the very institution established to protect this liberty from such threats."

Then, he said, "Under the guise of wanting to ensure all Americans receive what they call health care, the Obama administration implemented ObamaCare … one of the most egregious pieces of government action ever."

The federal health care law’s mandates and decrees, Mr. Sears asserted, "violate the conscience of people of faith … by forcing employers to provide free contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in the health care coverage of their employers."

The impact, he explained, is already affecting companies and institutions throughout the United States, including Hercules Industries, a small, 50-year-old heating and cooling business owned by a Catholic family in Colorado.

Earlier this year, Mr. Sears and ADF won an injunction for its Catholic business owners to stop the Obama administration’s health care mandate that requires employers to provide for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives.

After ADF won the injunction, the Denver City Council denied a proclamation it was going to present to the company in recognition of its contributions to the community over the years, including the historic restoration of company headquarters and, ironically, its "generous employee health care coverage," Mr. Sears said.

"Our attorneys are working tirelessly across the nation to safeguard your liberties" and the liberties of others who are standing up for their Christian religious rights, he said.

Other cases that Mr. Sears said are being defended by ADF’s lawyers involve pharmacists who refused to sell abortion pills, nursing students who are required to participate in an abortion as part of their training and a Catholic anesthesiologist who risked her job to fight her employer over providing late-term abortions.

"More and more Christians who refuse to comply with the government’s anti-life agenda are being excoriated of their rights," he stated.

These and other issues, such as abortion, abortifacients, sterilizations, redefinition of marriage, stem cell research and destruction of human embryo, "undermine the fundamental commitment to preserve life and religious freedom…the hallmark of our laws, our culture, and our nation’s character for more than 200 years," he said.

"We live in an age … during a crucial election year," said Mr. Sears, "where a political and legal battle wages about the law and the meaning of life.

"We cannot stand idly by. We cannot do nothing," he said.

"We have a responsibility to stand up for God’s truth," said Mr. Sears. "It is now the time to take a stand…to pray...to act…to defend."

Mr. Sears also used the occasion to honor Brian R. Brill, nephew of Deacon Tom Davis, associate director of the college’s John Paul II Bioethics Center, who lost his life as a Navy SEAL on Aug. 6, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan (and who was profiled in the program brochure).

Explaining Brian’s love for his military career and his role in defending freedom for Americans, Mr. Sears challenged his audience, saying, "Together we must never allow any government to tell us the limits of love."

"We know and understand … that freedom and life can never really exist apart from one another," he said. "They are two wings of the same eagle….As we protect life, as we protect marriage, we defend freedom.

"Whether it’s on a battlefield, in a voting booth, in a classroom, in a professional journal, in a pulpit or a courtroom, we are fighting for life (and for marriage as the source of life) and freedom, opposing government efforts to limit love."

"Alan is the most eloquent, successful [and] knowledgeable of legal advocates for religious liberty in the country and in the world right now," said Deacon Davis, who is the associate director of the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center at the college.

"He is standing up against incredible intrusions on the first freedoms in this country," he noted, "where citizens are being forced to choose between their conscience and their jobs, their business, their education."

The lecture was preceded by a concert by pianist Katherine Rex, an emerging talent in classical music. She is the daughter of Charles Rex, a first violinist with the New York Philharmonic, and Dr. Elizabeth Rex, a pro-life advocate and bioethics professor at Holy Apostles.

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.