An Evangelical-Catholic Stand on Liberty
American Evangelicals and Catholics have not always been the best of friends. But in recent years, many in both camps have moved from suspicion to mutual understanding and appreciation.
Charles Colson, the evangelical founder of Prison Fellowship, began one such effort with Richard John Neuhaus, the Catholic editor of First Things, 20 years ago. The fruit of their labor was a document titled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together."
That statement shows that alongside our theological differences, we hold important beliefs in common. For example, the statement says, "we contend together for religious freedom. . . . In their relationship to God, persons have a dignity and responsibility that transcends, and thereby limits, the authority of the state and of every other merely human institution." Recent efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Affordable Care Act have brought us together to defend that freedom.
On Wednesday, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the trustees of Wheaton College joined The Catholic University of America in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They did so because the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide and subsidize insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates the conscience of the school and its members, and denies their First Amendment freedom of religion.
When Catholic University began its own legal action on May 21, it asserted a moral and a constitutional right to practice its religion without government interference. Defending liberty is also deeply rooted in Wheaton's identity as a Christian liberal arts college, founded by abolitionists on the Illinois prairie at the outset of the Civil War.
Wheaton's first president, Jonathan Blanchard, believed that slavery was something more than an "ordinary political problem." He felt a religious imperative to act in defense of freedom. "A command against my conscience," he said, "I would not obey." ...