Amb Ray Flynn Speech at Stand Up For Freedom Rally, June 8, 2012

Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally
Boston Commons, June 8, 2012

Speech by Ambassador Raymond L Flynn

My friends, I am honored to stand with you in this historic Boston Common today. Because of the assault on our religious freedom that is taking place in Washington, DC., the media and politicians here in Boston and in Washington need to hear from people who value religious freedom enshrined in our constitution. 

The Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to pursue a radical mandate that would force religious institutions to provide coverage for services that violate their faith is the most severe attack on religious freedom that I have seen in my lifetime. 

As a proud lifelong Catholic Democrat, I fear that this dangerous policy is causing a serious rift between the Democratic party and Catholics – and people of all faiths for that matter.  Sadly, this unthinkable move threatens a long and proud relationship, one in which many Bostonians have been honored to be part of.

In 1998, I was invited to the President Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Marist College in Hyde Park, New York, to participate in a two day conference about the role of the Catholic Church during the World War II years. Many distinguished scholars, historians, journalists and political and religious people attended and participated in the remarkably informative conference. Much of what we discussed is now part of recorded history that has been written about extensively in numerous books and publications. But one aspect of that FDR Library Conference which was most revealing to me was the extraordinary close political relationship that President Roosevelt had with Catholics and the Church.  The closeness between the Democratic Party and Catholics was telling. Catholics were an important and significant part of the President and the Democratic Party's political base in America at the time. 

Arthur M.Schlesinger, Jr. the prominent historian and advisor to the late President John F. Kennedy and I spent considerable time discussing this topic publicly and privately.

We read speeches and papers that FDR had read and authorized in his name. We studied his close relationship with Edward Flynn and Jim Farley of New York City as well as so many other well-known Catholic political operatives. FDR spoke to them regularly and relied on them for advice. It was unthinkable for most Catholics not to vote the straight Democratic ticket.

That's exactly how I remember it growing up in Irish Catholic South Boston. We all knew of the close personal friendship that the Kennedy family had with our neighbor Richard Cardinal Cushing and so many other Church leaders. Especially in time of trouble to many Irish immigrant families in those days, it was both the Church and the Democratic Party who were always there to help, if needed. They were working for better and safer work conditions on the docks, medical care, educating kids and helping the poor. People in those days were loyal to the Church and the Democratic Party.

You can't imagine how I felt when I saw my longtime friend Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City filing a legal challenge against the Obama Administration for their discriminatory policies against religious institutions in America. I am proud of Cardinal Dolan, but ashamed that this administration has let it come to this.  Nobody would have thought that this could have be imaginable 25 years ago. The Catholic Church suing The White House for violations of religious liberties? Unthinkable! What happened to separation of church and state?  

It is outrageous that the administration has taken action to trample on the rights of religious institutions and people of faith.  Despite what you hear from the media and some politicians, this is not about access to contraception; it is about the principle of whether the federal government can force religious organizations to take actions that violate their own faith and their own conscience. Catholics will not stand by and be silent!

Our fellow Americans of various faiths have also recognized the danger of this mandate and have begun to speak out.  However, we need more voices to stand with Cardinal Dolan and the principles of religious freedom.  Starting now, our politicians must learn that they cannot ignore what Catholics think or believe in. Our voices will be heard!  It’s time for our elected officials to speak out against this devastating attack on our tradition of religious freedom.

If we lose this battle, I believe there will be no stopping government intrusion and oversight of our faith based institutions.  Is this a government for and by the people?  I don’t think so.  

The next move is up to you. Continue to stand up and be heard. That's what our parents and grandparents did. We owe it them, to our country, and to our heritage.

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