In 1804, the Ursuline Sisters, who had founded numerous Catholic charities and other institutions in the territory of Louisiana were worried about their religious freedoms when the US Government gained control of New Orleans. They wrote President Jefferson about their concerns. Here is his reply:
I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me
wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your
institution by the former governments of Louisiana.
The principles of the constitution and government of the United States
are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you, sacred and
inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern
itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from
the civil authority.
Whatever the diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions
of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution
cannot be indifferent to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome
purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way
they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the
government it is under.
Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give
I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship and respect.
This is interesting on its own merits, but it’s especially good to know in view of Jamie Stiehm’s recent anti-Catholic screed against Catholics, Justice Sotomayer (who has lost her Wise Latina card, it seems) and the Supreme Court. That screed was an op-ed in US News and World Report entitled “The Catholic Supreme Court’s War on Women”.
Jefferson’s letter is particular pertinent because, as you will see explained in the first link above, and in Stiehm’s screed, she attempts to use Thomas Jefferson as cover for her shockingly bigoted rant. Her screed was laughably ignorant and disturbingly inaccurate- for instance:
Stiehm doesn’t allow facts and law to stop her rant, however. She declares, in laughable fashion, that theocracy is imposing religious rule while the mandate itself — which forces people to provide free birth control whether they want to do so or not — is somehow benign:
More than WASPS, Methodists, Jews, Quakers or Baptists, Catholics often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if “you” are female.
Like the nuns? Stiehm writes this without a hint of irony:
She blocked the most simple of rules – lenient rules – that required the Little Sisters to affirm their religious beliefs against making contraception available to its members.
Does Stiehm know that nuns are celibate and therefore don’t require birth control, free or otherwise? And that they clearly don’t want birth-control coverage? A mandate that requires nuns to sign a waiver that facilitates coverage of birth control is farcical on its face. Talk about imposing beliefs. The nuns (and other plaintiffs against the mandate with stronger cases) aren’t attempting to prevent employers from providing birth control; they’re trying to stop the government from forcing them to distribute and pay for it, directly or indirectly.
The paper responded to the bigoted nonsense by explaining this was merely an example of diversity and fair commentary on possible bias at the Supreme Court. You could try substituting Muslim, atheist, or any other belief group for Catholic in that article and that would put paid to the diversity claim, as the Anchoress so ably points out.
And the thing is, what Stiehm was calling for was the very opposite of diversity. She wants the wrong sorts of Catholics locked out of public discourse based largely on her own personal belief test, believe as she does, or shut your mouth and stay in the corner.