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Congressman Andrews Urged to Apologize for Insult to Christians, Other Religious Americans

Today, September 25, 2012, leaders of more than 20 religious and other organizations, many of them engaged in the defense of religious freedom, sent a letter urging Congressman Robert Andrews (N.J.-1st) to apologize for making insensitive and insulting remarks at a Congressional hearing on First Amendment concerns two weeks ago.

At the hearing on September 12th, Congressman Andrews complained that the issues being considered by two House Education and the Workforce subcommittees were not “compelling questions” that deserved a hearing. This included discussion of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) unconstitutional attempts to interfere with teaching faculty at religious colleges.

Andrews offensively characterized the hearing as a “classic case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns,” prompting today’s letter, which describes the comment as “most unfortunate and a great insult to Christians”:

Emperor Nero was a tyrant who hated Christianity and exacted a gruesome revenge on Christians who were blamed for fires in Rome.  Also, today “Rome” is the seat of the Catholic Church, which has been the victim not only of the NLRB’s harassment of Catholic colleges and universities, but also other religious liberty violations like the Obama administration’s mandate for insurance coverage of abortion-causing drugs and sterilizations.  Whether intended or not, these were exactly the wrong images to put forward while you argued that the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment are unworthy of a Congressional hearing.  Indeed, in America it is only the First Amendment that stands in the way of executive tyranny and religious persecution.

… Congressman Andrews, you may disagree with the fears of many religious leaders and people of faith about the growing threats to religious liberty.  We ask, however, that you not attempt to silence our voice before Congress.  We request your apology to Christians and all people of faith for showing such insensitivity to their concerns and historical trials, and we invite you to clarify your position on the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment.

The letter was drafted by The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), an advocate for Catholic education which has publicly opposed the NLRB’s harassment of Catholic colleges.  The history of the NLRB’s actions is documented in a study by The Cardinal Newman Society, titled “The NLRB’s Assault on Religious Liberty.”

The letter is signed by CNS president Patrick J. Reilly, Gary Bauer of American Values, L. Brent Bozell III of ForAmerica, Gary Marx of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Tom McCluskey of Family Research Council Action, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Christen Varley of Conscience Cause, John Brehany of the Catholic Medical Association, Rev. Joseph Koterski, S.J., of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and many other leaders who have sought relief from the Obama administration’s violations of religious freedom rights.

Since January 2011 the NLRB, dominated by Obama administration appointees, has declared three Catholic institutions—Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Manhattan College in New York, and St. Xavier University in Chicago—ineligible for First Amendment protections.  This violates a 1979 Supreme Court ruling which found that NLRB oversight of teachers at religious schools would improperly entangle the federal agency in religious matters, as well as subsequent rulings by the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., that instructed the NLRB to stop harassing religious colleges.

The full text of the letter follows:

September 25, 2012

The Honorable Robert E. Andrews
2265 Rayburn House Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Andrews:

During a September 12th subcommittee hearing on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and higher education, you displayed great insensitivity to the serious concerns of Christians and other people of faith.  On behalf of our constituents and all people of faith, we ask for your apology and for a clarification of your position on the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment and harassment of religious educators.

Among three key topics of the September 12th hearing was the NLRB’s repeated violations of the constitutional rights of religious colleges and universities.  The NLRB claims authority to evaluate the strength of religious identity at religious colleges and universities, and in several cases has claimed jurisdiction over these institutions’ negotiations with faculty members, thereby entangling the NLRB in religious concerns.  The NLRB has ignored rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which exempt religious colleges and their teaching faculty from NLRB oversight.

These are serious constitutional and religious liberty concerns, yet on September 12th you opposed even allowing the opportunity for religious educators to explain their plight to Congress.  At the hearing, you claimed that these were not “compelling questions” worthy of a hearing.  To the contrary, the growing threats to the religious liberty of Americans across the country deserve multiple hearings and legislative action.  We are shocked and appalled by your insensitivity to American educators’ concerns about violations of their constitutional rights.

Moreover, you outrageously characterized the hearing as a “classic case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns,” apparently to color your argument that the hearing was a waste of time.  This was most unfortunate and a great insult to Christians.  Emperor Nero was a tyrant who hated Christianity and exacted a gruesome revenge on Christians who were blamed for fires in Rome.  Also, today “Rome” is the seat of the Catholic Church, which has been the victim not only of the NLRB’s harassment of Catholic colleges and universities, but also other religious liberty violations like the Obama administration’s mandate for insurance coverage of abortion-causing drugs and sterilizations.  Whether intended or not, these were exactly the wrong images to put forward while you argued that the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment are unworthy of a Congressional hearing.  Indeed, in America it is only the First Amendment that stands in the way of executive tyranny and religious persecution.

Congressman Andrews, you may disagree with the fears of many religious leaders and people of faith about the growing threats to religious liberty.  We ask, however, that you not attempt to silence our voice before Congress.  We request your apology to Christians and all people of faith for showing such insensitivity to their concerns and historical trials, and we invite you to clarify your position on the NLRB’s violations of the First Amendment.

Sincerely,

(all signers below)

Gary Bauer
President
American Values

Morton Blackwell
Chair
The Weyrich Lunch

L. Brent Bozell III
Chairman
ForAmerica

John Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L.
Executive Director
Catholic Medical Association

William A. Donohue, Ph.D.
President
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Maureen Ferguson
Senior Policy Adviser
The Catholic Association

Day Gardner, Ph.D.
President
National Black Pro-Life Union

Patricia Lee June, M.D.

Charles T. Kenny, Ph.D.
President
Right Brain People

John F. Kippley
President
Natural Family Planning International

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Ph.D., S.T.L.
President
Fellowship of Catholic Scholars

Barbara Ledeen
Director
Women United

Mario H. Lopez
President
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Gary Marx
Executive Director
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Tom McClusky
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council Action

Sister Renee Mirkes, O.S.F., Ph.D.
Ethics Director
Center for NaPro Ethics, Pope Paul VI Institute

William J. Murray
Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition

Iain Murray
Vice-President for Strategy
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Penny Nance
CEO & President
Concerned Women for America

Archbishop Council Nedd II
Chairman
In God We Trust

Michael O’Dea
President
Christus Medicus

Patrick J. Reilly
President
The Cardinal Newman Society

Paul Rondeau
Executive Director
American Life League

Barbara Samuells
Founder
Catholics for Freedom of Religion

Allan Sawyer, M.D.
President-Elect
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Terrence Scanlon
President
Capital Research Center

Mark J. Snell, M.D.

Alex St. James
Executive Director
Republican National Policy Committee

Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Executive Director
Catholic Education Foundation

Roy Stringfellow, M.D.
Senior Partner
Advanced Gynecology, Colorado Springs

Mike Sullivan
President
Catholics United for the Faith

Peter J. Thomas
Chairman
The Conservative Caucus

Mark Tooley
President
Institute on Religion & Democracy

Den Trumbull, M.D.
Pediatric Healthcare

Christen Varley
Executive Director
Conscience Cause

Craig Williford, Ph.D.
President
Trinity International University

David Wilson
CEO
Wilson Partners

Joseph Zanga, M.D.
Chief of Pediatrics
Columbia Regional Healthcare System

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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