At yesterday’s U.S. House of Representatives hearing on the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) harassment of Catholic colleges and universities, Congressman Robert Andrews (N.J.-1st) reportedly put his foot in his mouth when he characterized the hearing as a “classic case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns”—apparently to give color to his complaint that the issues being considered by the committee were not “compelling questions.”
But the image of Rome’s destruction at the hands of a tyrant who hated Christianity, and the gruesome martyrdom of Christians who were blamed for the fire, was exactly the wrong image to put forward while attempting to dismiss the Obama administration’s violations of religious freedom as unworthy of a Congressional hearing.
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (N.C.-5th), who chairs the House subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, reportedly responded forcefully to Congressman Andrews:
We are not fiddling while Rome burns. We are looking at the issues, at threats to our Constitution that have been established by this Administration, and in fact we probably should do a lot more, particularly with threats to our First Amendment. If we can erode our constitutional values, if we can erode our God-given rights, then anything can be taken away from us.
Congressman Tim Walberg (Mich.-7th) agreed that “an outside, arbitrary board” should not be making decisions about whether or not a college is sufficiently religious, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Yesterday we noted the statement by Congressman Phil Roe (Tenn.-1st), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, who said it “is simply unacceptable to allow the NLRB to judge whether a private academic institution has sufficient religious character.”
We also pointed to testimony in support of Catholic colleges by Professor Michael Moreland, vice dean of Villanova University’s law school, and the surprisingly helpful testimony by Christian Sweeney, deputy director of the AFL-CIO Organizing Department.
The House education committee is reportedly not planning legislation to address NLRB oversight of religious colleges, but a spokeswoman reportedly told theChronicle that the committee “will certainly be watching these issues closely” to determine whether “future oversight efforts or legislative activity is necessary.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has been the leading voice opposing the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment in order to assert jurisdiction over Catholic colleges and universities. Three Catholic colleges are appealing NLRB rulings that they are insufficiently religious to qualify for exemption from NLRB oversight. But an extensive study by The Cardinal Newman Society, titled “The NLRB’s Assault on Religious Liberty,” explains that the NLRB has repeatedly ignored rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
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