Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, speaks April 19 during the eighth annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

CNS PHOTO | NANCY PHELAN WIECHEC

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, speaks April 19 during the eighth annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

April 30, 2012
MARK PATTISON
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The secular spirit of the age is threatening to overwhelm freedom of religion in the United States, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson warned April 19.

"Never in the lifetime of anyone present here has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today," Anderson told an estimated 800 people attending the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

"We must remind our fellow Americans, and especially those who exercise power, that religious liberty – the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment - has been essential to the founding, development and improvement of the American republic."

Anderson said, "Today we find a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways.

"And it is not only because of the Obama administration's HHS contraception mandate."

Besides the mandate requiring that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion, Anderson pointed to the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case, a court challenge to a Lutheran school's firing of a teacher. The attempt to more narrowly define who is a religious employee was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

GRANT REVOKED

He also noted that a federal human trafficking grant awarded to the U.S. bishops' Department of Migration and Refugee Services was revoked because MRS would not offer its clients the "full range of reproductive services," including abortion.

"A government willing to affect the faith and mission of the Church is a government willing to change the identity of the Church," Anderson declared.

"During his (2008) visit to Washington, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that 'Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age,'" he said.

"The spirit of our age is profoundly secular. And secularism accepts religion - if it accepts it at all - only on its own terms. Under this view, religion is subordinated to the political interests of the secular state. And it is precisely this subordination of religion to the state that the First Amendment seeks to prevent."

Anderson recalled when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed Congress in December 1941, with England being subjected to Nazi bombing runs and the United States having just suffered the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.

DEFIANCE

"In that worst of times, he scorned the enemies of freedom and defiantly asked, 'What kind of people do they think we are!' Today, with the same defiance, we can declare, 'What kind of Catholics do they think we are!'" Anderson said to applause.

"Do they really expect us to go gently into that dark night they are preparing for religious liberty in America?

"Do they know that people who believe in 'one holy catholic and apostolic Church' can never agree to compromise our Church by entangling it in intrinsically evil acts?"