A basic freedom, religious liberty is eroding

The fight for religious liberty continues. And it must. Each day as I read news articles on the Internet
and listen to various news programs on television, I discover more and more examples of violations of
religious freedom and other basic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution on which this country was
founded. Some of the recent scandals in government agencies whereby certain groups are targeted
because of their traditional views and religious values speak volumes of how basic freedoms and rights
are being taken away or greatly diminished.

This situation is not only sad, but it is inexcusable. Groups or organizations who believe in traditional
marriage, who believe in the right to life from conception to its natural end, who favor adoption to
families with both a father and a mother, and who believe that companies should not be forced to
provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, among other things,
are being persecuted and their right to free speech and public debate is being violated.

This is an unprecedented violation of religious liberty by the federal government and certain agencies.
Government intrusion and taking away the rights on which this country was founded is un-American.
This threat to religious freedom is larger than any single issue we face and has its roots in the secularism
of our culture.

Because this is of utmost importance for our church and our country, the U.S. bishops have called for
another Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer and action, to address many current
challenges to religious liberty. It is very timely because of the fact that August 1 is the deadline for
religious organizations to comply with the Health and Human Services mandate to provide
contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. The timeliness is also
important because during the Fortnight for Freedom, the United States Supreme Court rulings that could
redefine marriage will likely be handed down as well. Those decisions could have a profound impact on
religious freedom for many, many generations to come. Religious liberty concerns present themselves in
other areas such as immigration and humanitarian services as well.

We will be celebrating Independence Day soon. When we celebrate this national holiday, what are on
the hearts and minds of many people are the freedoms that we enjoy in this country. This day
commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which announced that
the thirteen American colonies who regarded themselves as independent states were no longer a part of
the British Empire. Instead a new nation was formed — the United States of America.

Two lines in the Declaration are important for us on this day. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”The truth is that these “certain unalienable rights” belong to God because, as stated, they are “endowed by our Creator” to each of us — the right to life and religious freedom. Religious liberty, the “most cherished of American freedoms” and rooted deeply in the dignity of the human person, is being eroded. When people are denied and hindered from professing and living their religion or faith, human dignity is offended, resulting in a threat to justice and peace.

As Catholics and Americans whose faith is the driving force of our lives and who believe that faith plays
an important role in working for the common good of all, we must intensify our prayers and fasting for a
new birth of freedom in our beloved country so that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as outlined
by the Declaration of Independence, will be preserved for all of us.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pa., in a homily at the closing of last
year’s Fortnight for Freedom stated: “The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true
freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be
sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order
to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom,
consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and

This last sentence is very important in why this Fortnight for Freedom is so important. The role of the
church and all her disciples is to elevate and challenge our culture to higher and more virtuous ways of
living. Therefore, religious freedom makes us a better society and a better nation. As Archbishop Chaput
stated, religious liberty enables us to live in true freedom that only comes through Jesus Christ. Without
religious freedom, we, the church, cannot fulfill our duty as Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is
religious freedom that allows committed Christians to live a life of true discipleship, a life which leads
to true happiness, true fulfillment and ultimately to heaven. Are these not worth fighting for?

Therefore, I invite all people of the diocese to a fortnight of fasting and prayer and to take the time to
participate in the Fortnight for Freedom in your local parishes. There will be an ecumenical discussion
on religious liberty at our Cathedral at 7 p.m. on the evening of July 2. Please come and join us.