What follows below is the article I wrote for the cover of our parish bulletin last weekend. I had meant to post it before now but forgot. I was reminded of it yesterday when I attended our annual diocesan ministerium and the speaker’s first presentation spoke about religious freedom in our country. Professor Helen Alvaré, Professor of Law at George Mason University was the speaker and she did an excellent job in talking about the importance of religious freedom and that we actually live as witnesses to what we believe.
Here is the article.
Many of the early colonists who came to America did so just to be able to practice their own faith. Can you imagine migrating thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean just to be able to come to a Catholic Mass? We can take for granted our right to worship as we want today.
Our Declaration of Independence refers to rights given to us by God. Yes, God is explicitly mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. I wonder if that would happen today? The First Amendment of our Constitution specifically guarantees the freedom of religion.
In our country, we generally don’t have to worry about people telling us how to worship at Mass but it is becoming more of a problem where people want to force our Church to go against its beliefs on contraception and marriage as well as some other issues. There are cases before the Supreme Court about this. Some laws provide specific religious exemptions for churches but these are becoming more narrowly defined, if allowed at all.
Recognizing the importance of being able to live what our faith teaches, last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops started a “Fortnight for Freedom Campaign” to run from June 21st to July 4th where we ask for the liberty to practice what our faith teaches. You can learn more about the campaign at www.fortnight4freedom.org. In particular you read the document “Our First Most Cherished Freedom” written by the conference of bishops at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/our-first-most-cherished-liberty.cfm as well as some articles describing ways in which people’s religious liberty is being oppressed.
June 22nd is the Memorial of St. John Fisher (patron saint of our diocese) and St. Thomas More. They both objected when Henry VIII demanded they sign a statement given him control over the church in England. They held fast to their faith and were martyred. You can learn more about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More in the movie, A Man for All Seasons.
During the “Fortnight for Freedom” the conference of bishops also offers us daily reflections on religious liberty that can be found in the lists of items near the bottom left of the list on www.fortnight4freedom.org as well as a “Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty”.
How precious is it to you to be able to worship and to actually live your faith without free of punishment or being judged?