Today, the US
bishops issued a call to action to defend religious liberty and urged laity to
protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights. No doubt there is considerable consternation surrounding
the proposed usurpation of our legal freedom of religion: clearly the US
President has forgotten the first clause of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
“Our First, Most Cherished Freedom,” aims to inform and to encourage the entire
Christian Church in North America –and beyond–in understanding what the Church teaches on religious liberty. Moreover, the US bishops want to encourage a rightful role in
defending the first of our American liberties. Being Catholic –or a person of faith– does not mean that we give up a sense of reasonableness and citizenship. The bishops published this work in order
to reassert their voice in the public square, thus bridging the gap of faith and reason
for a coherent national debate on matters of concern. Religion cannot be
relegated to the closet. Like most documents of the Church, this one also hopes
not only to impart information but also to form Catholics (indeed, all
Christians) as faithful citizens. It is our Christian belief that religious liberty is God-given and is not
imparted by our elected officials. “Our First, Most Cherished Freedom” is a
document of the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
The bishops write,
We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.
Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free. Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations.
The entire document can be read here: Our First Most Cherished Liberty.pdf
While it is basically true that the Christian body who stands to lose much by the curtailing of religious liberty, this is not merely a Catholic Church issue. I think I am correct in saying that religious liberty ought to be of concern to all Christian religious groups–particularly the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, even the atheists. The Obama government mandate is an attack by the federal government on religious liberty seen clearly as an attack on a sacred right of conscience informed by faith and reason.