At last count, 43 Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, have filed lawsuits challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that religious organizations provide medical coverage that violates their conscience and religious liberties.
I thank God that there are individuals and organizations in this nation willing to go to the wall for freedom and our First Amendment rights.
As a reminder, it was this past January when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that nearly every healthcare plan was required to cover the cost of sterilizations and contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortion.
Since then, religious leaders and a number of legislators have been trying to persuade administration officials to reconsider their draconian ruling, but to no avail. In response to the stalled talks, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan sounded an ominous warning over the weekend.
“Time is running out,” he said, adding that “[our] fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”
To a Christian, the lawsuit is, indeed, a matter of last resort, at least prior to practicing civil disobedience. At this point in the process there are more questions than answers. These 43 lawsuits are in addition to the current case that sits with the Supreme Court. Should the justices rule the entire healthcare law illegal come June, this matter regarding the HHS mandate becomes moot. But what if only a portion of the law is struck down? The stakes couldn’t be higher.
The very best thing that Christians can do about this stalemate is also the most fundamental thing we must always do when we’re up against seemingly impossible odds:
We must pray!
And I don’t mean perfunctory prayer. I’m referring to strong and powerful prayer. We need to pray for a miracle. I’m reminded of Jesus’ own words:
I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him (Mark 11:23).
Do you pray with a spirit of expectation? Or is it more often offered with a sense of resignation, that you’ve exhausted all other options and, well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to file a short prayer of petition?
In the late 1800s there was a Christian evangelist in England by the name of George Muller. Those who were around him reported that he prayed about everything, especially for seemingly impossible or unlikely things. He prayed very practical prayers, that the thick fog would lift in the midst of a journey across the Atlantic. He prayed that a man’s hard heart would be softened and that the man would be willing to work through a cold night on a broken boiler. Time and time again, George prayed for what many thought be to impossible requests – and more often than not, his prayers were answered.
It’s time for us to pray for a turn of the tide. It’s time for us to pray for a miracle.
UPDATE: According to a recent poll, nearly 75% of Americans believe that freedom of religion should be protected, even if it conflicts with other laws.