Representatives from a number of Catholic colleges and schools recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society for their strong Catholic identity joined the Newman Society and dozens of religious and public policy organizations this week in an effort led by the Family Research Council to urge the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). FADA is needed, they state, in order to “prohibit federal government discrimination against those who continue to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
“The very survival of Catholic education and faithful nonprofits like The Cardinal Newman Society is threatened, unless Congress intervenes and ensures our full protection,” said Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “Congress needs to stand by the First Amendment and defend America’s bedrock principle of freedom of religion.”
The letter, addressed to Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, states, “Charities, non-profits, and family owned businesses with religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage should not be penalized by the federal government for their beliefs.
“FADA prevents the federal government from engaging in discrimination,” the letter continues, “whether in grants, contracts, licensing, accreditation or tax treatment against individuals and entities who continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that sexual relations are reserved for such a marriage.”
Those who signed the letter specifically request that congressional leaders schedule a vote on FADA “for early this year.” The legislation was introduced by Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador in the House last June, with an identical bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. A new version of FADA was released on September 14, 2015.
Writing in The New York Times last September, Lee indicated that he introduced the legislation out of concern “about what the solicitor general told the Supreme Court: that after Obergefell, the decision that legalized same-sex marriage, faith-based institutions providing valuable public services could lose their nonprofit status because of their now-heterodox beliefs about marriage.
“Without new protections provided by FADA, hospitals could lose Medicaid funding, and K-12 institutions could have their nonprofit status revoked,” he said.
“Protecting religious freedom from Government intrusion is a Government interest of the highest order,” according to the bill. “Legislatively enacted measures advance this interest by remedying, deterring, and preventing Government interference with religious exercise in away that complements the protections mandated by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
The legislation would prohibit the federal government from taking “any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Signers of the letter argued, “FADA is urgently needed to ensure speech supporting natural marriage is not chilled, particularly in the wake of Obergefell and new federal agency conditions requiring those receiving federal grants to endorse same-sex relationships. Even before Obergefell, protections were needed after the President’s problematic July 2014 Executive Order, jeopardizing the ability of businesses and faith-based organizations, that contract with the federal government, to hire and administer programs according to their religious beliefs.”
“FADA does not overturn Obergefell or any executive order; it simply protects persons who disagree with the Court’s redefinition of marriage from government discrimination,” according to the letter. “We, as individuals and organizations, wish to remain active participants in and contributors to our communities; the First Amendment Defense Act ensures we can do so while also living in accordance with our beliefs about marriage and the family.”
The presidents of nine Catholic colleges signed onto the letter, including representatives of eight Newman Guide-recommended colleges. Additionally, 13 Honor Roll Schools of Excellence signed onto the letter along with a Michigan Catholic school superintendent who oversees an Honor Roll school.
The Catholic colleges represented include Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Northeast Catholic College, University of Saint Thomas – Houston, Walsh University, St. Gregory’s University, Benedictine College, Wyoming Catholic College and Assumption College.
“As a president of a college named after the pre-eminent martyr who, in the face of political tyranny, died for his Faith and the Faith of all Christendom, I am honored to have signed the letter calling for the House leadership to pass the First Amendment Defense Act,” said Dr. William Fahey, president of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, in a statement to the Newman Society.
Dr. George Harne, president of Northeast Catholic College, told the Newman Society, “It is of the utmost importance that our freedom of religion remain as a bedrock of our liberty and be vigorously defended. Our duties to God precede our duties to the human political order while at the same time our fulfillment of these duties strengthen and animate that order.”
Walsh University supports passage of FADA "in collaboration with other Catholic institutions because it has the potential to uphold key values and support critical initiatives across our country,” said Walsh University President Richard Jusseaume.
“We are in a time of great uncertainty regarding First Amendment rights that we hold dear,” said Gregory Main, president of St. Gregory’s University. “The FADA, if enacted, would provide a more stable legal environment essential for universities and colleges which depend on First Amendment rights to fulfill their mission.”
“Tolerance has been a bedrock of American democracy. The redefinition of marriage movement is determined to end tolerance. FADA is an effort to protect tolerance,” said Dr. Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University.
Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of Wyoming Catholic College said he “eagerly signed the letter supporting FADA” because “it’s high-time that people of faith go on the offense politically.
“For too many years, we’ve buried our heads in the sand, or remained confined to the trenches,” he continued. “It’s time to storm the field for truth and goodness.”
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, also signed the letter.
The USCCB issued a statement strongly supporting FADA last June. In letters to Lee and Labrador, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore wrote, “It is becoming apparent that some who promote marriage redefinition do not support the coexistence and tolerance of different ideas in a pluralistic society but instead have a ‘comply or else’ agenda,” adding that “persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious liberties jeopardized and even forfeited.”
“As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination,” the bishops stated.
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.