Catholics pray for religious freedom on Independence Day
ORLANDO, Fla. — Don Madden wore his American-flag shirt to Mass at Orlando's St. James Cathedral on the Fourth of July, showing his allegiance to his country and his church.
The Catholic Church and the American government are at odds over a health care mandate that requires religious institutions to provide free health insurance coverage for contraception. Madden sides with the church.
"It's an embarrassment that our government is doing this," said Madden of Orlando. "The government can't just decide what you can and can't believe."
Wednesday's service marked the end of a "Fortnight for Freedom" proclaimed by the U.S. Catholic bishops who maintain that the health care mandate is an infringement on religious liberty.
During the Fourth of July Mass, attended by about 150 people at St. James, the Rev. John McCormick preached that any intrusion on religion is a serious threat to the freedoms upon which the United States is founded.
"Freedom is only a word unless you live by that word," he said.
The freedoms Americans so easily take for granted are so rare among the nations of the world, McCormick said. "All you have to do to understand is to live somewhere else, and you will know what it is like to come back to this nation and live here with all our freedoms."
At the end of the service, the mostly elderly congregation sang "God Bless America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Afterward, Diane Engel said she agreed with the bishops that the health care mandate is an unwarranted intrusion of the government into the affairs of the church.
"It's totally against our religious beliefs," said Engel, 60, of Orlando, with a flag pin affixed to her blouse.
A national poll found 57 percent of Catholics supported the mandatory coverage for birth control, but Madden said such polls are irrelevant.
"It makes no difference because it's (opposition to birth control) what the church professes and believes," he said.
Peggy Bonnewitz, 50, of Orlando felt the Catholic Church, in its opposition to abortion and contraception, was being singled out by the government.
"It's an attack on Catholic religion," she said. "They shouldn't be telling churches what to do."
©2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.); Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com ; Distributed by MCT Information Services
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