The watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed an official complaint against Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria, Illinois diocese over remarks he made about how social services for Catholics could be eliminated if President Obama’s directive requiring all employers, including religious groups, to provide free birth control coverage in their health care plans.
According to the group’s director Rev Barry Lynn, the Bishop’s comments was tantamount to asking the parishioners not to vote for President Obama in the Presidential elections this year. “This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries — only excepting our church buildings — could easily be shut down,” Bishop Jenky said.
In his homily made to the congregation at St Mary’s Cathedral Peoria, Bishop Jenky compared President Obama’s requirements to actions of previous dictators like Hitler and Stalin. Bishop Jenky said, “Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama — with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda — now seems intent on following a similar path.”
Bishop Jenky was also alleged to have made comparisons between President Obama’s actions and past cultural wars against the church. “Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room,” Bishop Jenky said.
The complaint by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State states that Biship Jenky has broken the law that prohibits the church from supporting or endorsing the candidacy of any person running for public office. Rev Lynn contends that churches or religious organizations that run on taxpayers’ money should be apolitical. In his letter, Rev Lynn wrote that Jenky violated the rules that prohibit issue advocacy.
Rev Lynn admitted that the Bishop did not explicitly tell his congregation members who to vote for. “To be sure, Jenky never utters the words ‘Do not vote for Obama,’” Lynn wrote. “But the Internal Revenue Code makes it clear that statements need not be this explicit to run afoul of the law.”
Bishop Jenky’s remarks also drew ire from the Anti-Defamation League of Chicago whose regional director Lonnie Nasatir demanded an apology from the Bishop saying, “A clergy person with so many people listening to every word should be more responsible and should think twice before making analogies.”