Catholic Bishops Prepare to Fight for Religious Liberty

By RACHEL ZOLL | November 13, 2011 | 1:15 PM EST

Archbishop George H. Niederauer, left, and Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at a news conference following the opening of the group's fall meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

(AP) - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops meet in Baltimore this week amid growing church-state tensions.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wants broader religious exceptions to laws on issues ranging from mandatory contraception coverage to gay marriage.

The bishops have created a new committee on religious liberty overseen by an attorney who is a specialist in the field. Church leaders also plan to hire a lobbyist.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan met last week with President Barack Obama and discussed many of the issues that have caused problems between the administration and the church hierarchy.

The bishops are intensifying their focus on religious liberty at a time when many bishops believe the country is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. Many Catholics say the bishops are overreacting.