WASHINGTON — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops called Thursday for a national campaign in defense of religious liberty and urged resistance to laws that church officials consider unjust.
In a new 12-page document that quotes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the bishops said priests, laypeople, public figures and others must be involved in the effort to change recent state and federal laws that church leaders think violate religious freedom.
"We address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad," the bishops wrote.
The highest-profile clash has been over the mandate in the Obama administration's health care overhaul that most employers cover birth control costs for workers. The White House has offered a compromise for church-affiliated groups such as hospitals and universities, but bishops said the changes haven't gone far enough.
"The Constitution is not for Democrats or Republicans or independents. It is for all of us, and a great nonpartisan effort should be led by our elected representatives to ensure that it remains so," the bishops wrote.
Several bishops have shut down their adoption and foster care programs where the government would require them to place children with same-sex couples. Church leaders have also been fighting tough immigration laws in Alabama and elsewhere that many religious groups say make it impossible for them to aid illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans a national "Fortnight for Freedom" from June 21 to July 4 that will include prayer and study about religious liberty.