By Kevin J. Jones
A secularist group’s New York Times ad that urges Catholics to leave the Church over its’ resistance to the contraception mandate is being called “hate speech” by critics.
“Not a single Catholic who reads this ad will be impelled to leave the Church. That is not the issue,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “The issue is the increase in hate speech directed at Catholics.”
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation ad “It’s Time to Quit the Catholic Church” ran on March 9 and billed itself as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics.”
“Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages?” it asks. “Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on?”
The ad claims that the church is “an avowedly antidemocratic Old Boys club” and derides Catholic teaching that contraception use is sinful. It also blames the Church for causing misery, poverty, unwanted pregnancies and deaths and attacks Catholic teaching on the ordination of women, parochial schools, and the Church’s response to sex abuse.
The ad, which includes an unflattering political cartoon of a Catholic bishop, claims that the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference has made a “declaration of war against women’s right to contraception.”
U.S. Catholics are presently in a battle with the Obama administration over new federal mandates requiring employers, including religious employers, to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
The secularist group’s ad claimed that these Catholic efforts are an attempt “to use the force of secular law to deny birth control to non-Catholics” and claimed that the Church’s effort to defend non-mandatory coverage is a “ruthless political inquisition.”
The foundation’s website says it raised $52,000 to place the ad on page 10 of the Times’ front section.
Donohue harshly criticized the newspaper ad, saying it engages in a “palpable” demonization of the Catholic Church and uses the HHS mandate as a “pretext” to attack the Church.
“Nothing will stop Catholics from demanding that the Obama administration respect their First Amendment rights, this vile assault by (the foundation) notwithstanding,” he said. “Why the Times allowed this ad is another issue altogether.”