The Obama administration has been accused of telling Catholic military chaplains what they can and cannot say from their pulpits after the Army ordered Catholic chaplains not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop.
The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.
The letter called on Catholics to resist the policy the Obama Administration’s policy that would force institutions affiliated with religious groups to provide coverage for birth control, sterilization and “abortifacients.” The Catholic Church believes the mandate represents an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told Fox News Sunday the Army violated its chaplains’ constitutional rights by barring them from reading the letter – calling for resistance to the contraceptive coverage mandate.
“The Army and the Obama administration said they couldn’t even issue the letter to complain about the Obama administration’s plan on this policy,” Santorum said, calling it a violation of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
“This is the problem when government tells you they can give you things,” said Santorum, a Catholic. “They can take it away but even worse they can tell you how they are going to exercise this new right consistent with their values instead of the values guaranteed in the Constitution.”
On Jan. 26, Archbishop Timothy Broglio emailed a letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit.
A portion of the letter was obtained by Business Insider. It reads:
“In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.”
The following day, senior chaplains received an email from the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains advising them that the archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with their office – and instructed chaplains not to read it from the pulpit.
The Chief’s office ordered that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.
“Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” read a statement provided to Fox News from the Archdiocese of the Military Services.
According to the AMS, Archbishop Broglio had a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“It was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter,” the statement read. “Additionally, the line: “We cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.
The issue raises a question among critics: did administration official tell the Catholic Church what it could and could not say in the pulpit?
The Army confirmed that they asked Catholic chaplains not to read the letter, according to a statement released to National Review Online.
“The Army greatly appreciates the Archbishops consideration of the military’s perspective and is satisfied with the resolution upon which they agreed,” the statement concluded.
A source with knowledge of the incident told Fox News that no other branches of the military objected to the letter and to their knowledge was delivered “as-is” by chaplains in the other branches of the military.