“Quit the Church” says the large billboard alongside Interstate 30 east of Highway 360 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Put women’s rights over Bishops’ wrongs.” The 14×48 foot billboard was erected by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based state/church watchdog with 18,500 nonreligious members nationwide, including about 860 in Texas. It’s part of their answer to the Catholic Church’s June 21st to July 4th “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign, a multi-million dollar “political inquisition,” as FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor calls it, designed to pressure the Obama administration into rescinding that part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that, with the exception of churches themselves, requires religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and schools (along with every other employer in the country) to offer employees the option of contraceptive care in their insurance policies. The Church’s position is that requiring them to provide such a choice to their employees is an infringement against their (the Church’s) religious freedom. Dozens of Catholic dioceses have filed lawsuits against the HHS mandate because of it; the dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth among them.
That was, in fact, the reason the FFRF chose the Interstate 30 location. The billboard will remain up for a month. It’s having an effect in the Dallas-Fort Worth area too, as you can see in the Fox video link from a June 30 article on Huffington Post).
Dallas diocese employee Annette Gonzales Taylor stated that, “the women we have heard from today, the callers have said that they were offended, they were insulted, they were angry, all of those emotions.”
Speaking about the FFRF, Taylor said, “we’re very offended that an entity that has no knowledge, no understanding of the Church would erect a billboard of this nature.”
Whether or not that’s true, the FFRF does think they understand the meaning of religious freedom and the nature of the Church’s problem with the HHS healthcare mandate. Here’s the contents of a 30 second TV spot they recorded that features comedienne/actress/playwright Julia Sweeney:
“Hi, I’m Julia Sweeney, and I’m a cultural Catholic. I am no longer a believer and I even wrote a play about it called “Letting Go of God.” But I wanted to let you know that right now Catholic bishops are framing their opposition to contraceptive coverage as a religious freedom issue. But the real threat to freedom is the bishops, who want to be free to force their dogma on people who don’t want it. Please join the Freedom From Religion Foundation and help keep church and state separate..”
The ad will be played over a large variety of national television stations through July 4th.
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