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Cardinal to host televised town hall meeting during Fortnight for Freedom

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BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston will participate in the Fortnight for Freedom with events from June 21 to July 4, to rally support for the protection of religious freedom in the United States, including a live "town hall meeting" on CatholicTV for national broadcast.

Throughout the two week period called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the archdiocese will focus prayers, homilies, intentions and events on the theme of religious freedom. These events are intended to voice opposition to the decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require most Catholic organizations and employers to provide health plan coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs or face stiff fines. Since it was announced last year, the U.S. bishops have strongly advocated for an expansion of the measure's exceptionally narrow religious exemption.

"The Health and Human Services secretary has chosen to define a religious organization that would qualify for an exemption as one that just serves people of its own faith and employs people of its own faith. That violates so much of not only Catholic contributions to the common good, but also many other faiths whose religious missions involve them serving all those in need without asking what religion they are," said the archdiocese's Secretary for Catholic Media Scot Landry.

"In many ways this is one of the boldest attempts to transcend the separation of church and state, which was founded so that the government would not dictate to religion how religious people get to not only practice their faith, but live their faith. That is not just in the sanctuaries and in the homes, but it is in the public square serving the common good," he said.

"If we do not begin to stand up for religious liberty now, in particular because of this HHS mandate, many smaller Catholic organizations and larger Catholic organizations would be forced to choose between violating their conscience and paying crippling fines," Landry said.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley will host a live interactive "town hall meeting" with a discussion panel on CatholicTV, catholictv.com and WQOM radio 1060AM on June 25 at 8:00 p.m.

"Because of the size of the Archdiocese of Boston, and the logistics of trying to get, ideally, tens of thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics to participate in a town meeting of this sort, we thought that it was best to utilize one of the crown jewels within the archdiocesan ministries, which is CatholicTV," Landry said.

Landry said the use of television and new media in this way will allow greater participation and interaction even for those who cannot be at the town hall meeting.

"We can receive questions via Facebook, via Twitter, and via email during the broadcast that can be shared by the moderator to Cardinal Seán and the panel," Landry said.

The cardinal is asking all Catholics in the archdiocese to participate in and promote the town hall meeting.

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