Tag Archives: religious liberty

USCCB’s Committee on Religious Liberty detailed

Since its establishment there’s been little concrete news on the make up of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. The President of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, established the committee to address the concerns surrounding the reduction of religious freedom in a variety of arenas, not least government and culture. Dolan named Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori as the chairman, the member bishops and consulters have yet to be named. A group of bishops will meet, however, Sunday, 13 November, in advance of the annual general assembly of the US bishops.

Lori told CNA that the goal “…is first of all to lift the whole area of religious freedom, beginning with the teaching of the Church in Dignitatis Humanae [1965]– the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom” and the exposition of “…the vision of the Founding Fathers of the United States.”
Read David Kerr of CNA’s post on the developments here or here.

Defending Our First Freedom, Archbishop José Gomez, decries slowly losing sense of religious liberty in America

José H. Gomez.jpg

On 25 October 2011, Los Angelus Archbishop José H. Gomez, STD,  60, spoke on the slow loss of America’s first freedom. On March 1, 2011, Archbishop Gomez became the Archbishop of Los Angelus, after being the Archbishop of San Antonio; he’s been a bishop for nearly 11 years.  A stellar article follows:

There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right. As scholars like Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often “trumped” in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.

These are among the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops recently established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers’ liberties–and the Church’s freedom to carry out her mission–are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country’s history.

Catholics have always believed that we serve our country best as citizens when we are trying to be totally faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. And since before the founding of the American Republic, Catholics–individually and institutionally–have worked with government agencies at all levels to provide vital social services, education, and health care.

But lately, this is becoming harder and harder for us to do. Just last week, the federal government declined a grant request from the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency. We are not really sure why. No reason was given. Our agency has been working well with the government since 2006 to help thousands of women and children who are victims of human trafficking.

Recently, the government had been demanding that our agency provide abortions, contraception and sterilizations for the women we serve. We hope our application was not denied because we refused to provide these services that are unnecessary and violate our moral principles and religious mission.

And this is not an isolated case. Right now, the federal government is also trying to force private employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraception–including for medications that cause abortions. This not only violates the consciences of Catholic business owners, it also undermines the religious autonomy of Church employers.

For several years now, it seems that whenever there is a merger or expansion involving a Catholic hospital, some legislator or government agency tries to block it unless our Catholic hospitals and doctors will start providing abortions and sterilizations. So far, these efforts at coercion have failed. What’s troubling is that these efforts continue, without regard to the historic contributions of Catholic health care or to the First Amendment.

More recently, the push to legalize “same-sex marriages” has posed a new set of challenges to our freedoms. Church adoption and foster-care ministries have already been forced to shut down rather than submit to government demands that they place children with same-sex couples or provide benefits for same-sex employees.

And in an ominous development, the U.S. Justice Department went on record this summer as saying that those who defend the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman are motivated by bias and prejudice.

Of course, that is our ancient Catholic belief, rooted in the teachings of Jesus and also the Jewish Scriptures. It is a belief held by many Protestants, the Orthodox, and also by Jews and Muslims, among others. But scholars like Princeton’s Robert P. George warn that this belief might now be labeled as a form of bigotry and lead to new challenges to our liberties.

We are also concerned about the signals the federal government is sending in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. Experts say that if the government’s case prevails, it will have broad new powers to regulate the inner workings of Church institutions–even to possibly interfere in areas of Church practice and doctrine.

All of this is troubling and represents a sharp break with our history and American traditions. Religious liberty has always been “the first freedom” in our Bill of Rights and in our national identity. Our country’s founders recognized that religious freedom is a right endowed by God, not a privilege granted by government. And they respected that what God has given, no one–not a court, a legislature, or any institution–can rightly deny.

In our history, religious freedom has always included the rights of churches and religious institutions to establish hospitals, schools, charities, media outlets, and other agencies–and to staff these ministries and run them, free from government intrusion.

And religious freedom has always included the churches’ rights to engage in the public square to help shape our nation’s moral and social fabric. We see this throughout our history–from the abolitionist movement, to the civil rights movement, to the pro-life movement.

America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans’ being moral and virtuous. They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles. We need to help our leaders today rediscover the wisdom of America’s founding. And we need to help believers once more understand the vital importance of this “first freedom.” At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy.

Clarifying the meaning of religious freedom

A timely piece to think seriously about daily is the notion of religious freedom not only around the globe, but also and significantly here in the USA. Today, the Most Reverend William E. Lori addressed the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution. Here are a few paragraphs (the link to the full text is noted below):

liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy. As
the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recently explained: “It is indeed the first
of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be
recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his
relation with his Creator.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Diplomatic Corps,
10 Jan. 2011
.) The late
Pope John Paul II taught that “the most fundamental human freedom [is] that of
practicing one’s faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for
.” (Pope John Paul II, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 13 Jan. 1996
, No. 9.) Not coincidentally, religious
liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation’s
most cherished and fundamental freedoms. The First Amendment begins: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof….” It is commonly, and with justice, called our “First

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US Commission on International Religious Freedom could cease in November

US Congressman Frank R. Wolf, 72, (Virginia 10th District) proposed the bill in 1998 which created The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is a bi-partisan US Federal commission, appointed by the US President to advise him and Congress on matters pertaining to the freedom of religion. The CIRF reports to Congress and the State Department, is now in jeopardy.

It’s work is research and advocacy for freedom and human rights. It looks at the practice of religion and it’s freedom to exist.
HOWEVER, there is one senator who is blocking funding, anonymously. We need to write to our senators. We need to speak out!!!
After November 18 the Commission may go out of business.
Congressman Wolf thinks that if the bill is passed, Obama will sign the bill. But truth be told, the President is not really in favor the Commission’s work.
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14 countries deny religious freedom, says a US agency

The annual report on religious freedom lists 14 countries which deny religious freedom to their citizens. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (www.uscirf.gov) is a bi-partisan US Federal commission, appointed by the US President to advise him and Congress on matters pertaining to the freedom of religion.

Visit the above link for the report and other interesting information.
Of particular concern are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.
Rome Reports gives the story.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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