Statement on Religious Liberty from USCCB
lederman.marty at gmail.com
Fri Apr 13 03:56:49 PDT 2012
Just saw this response from the editors of Commonweal:
Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee
for Religious Liberty released a statement, “Our First, Most Cherished
on Catholics and others to resist what the bishops characterize as
unprecedented threats to religious freedom. The statement calls for a
national campaign of political and legal resistance. It also urges
Catholics to participate in a “Fortnight for Freedom” leading up to this
year’s Fourth of July holiday, during which they are asked to study, pray,
and protest against the supposed efforts of government to curtail the free
exercise of religion. Among the bishops’ concerns are the recent HHS
contraception mandate, harsh immigration laws, the denial of federal
funding to Catholic social-service agencies, and the closing of Catholic
adoption services because of the church’s refusal to place children with
The bishops are right to call for vigilance on behalf of religious liberty.
There are influential currents of opinion today that advocate restricting
the presence of religion in public life and would reduce religious liberty
to the freedom of individuals or congregations to worship as they please.
That is not the American way. There should be considerable room for
government to cooperate with religious groups as with other
non-governmental bodies in serving the common good. Unfortunately, the
argument made by the bishops as well as their proposed tactics for public
action undermine their case. Worse, the tenor of the bishops’ statement
runs the risk of making this into a partisan issue during a presidential
election in which the leaders of one party have made outlandish claims
about a “war on religion” or a “war against the Catholic Church.”
The USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American
freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are
threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful
weighing of competing moral claims. The USCCB’s statement fails to
acknowledge that fact. Worse, strangely absent from the list of examples
provided by the bishops is the best-documented case of growing hostility to
religious presence in the United States: hostility to Islam. Unless the
bishops correct that oversight, their statement will only feed the
impression that this “campaign” for religious freedom has been politically
tailored. This silence is especially striking in view of the parallels
between anti-Muslim sentiment today and the prejudice encountered by
Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century. If religious freedom becomes
a partisan issue, its future is sure to grow dimmer, not brighter.
Religious liberty, absolutely. Partisan politics, no.
On Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 6:47 AM, Marty Lederman <lederman.marty at gmail.com>wrote:
> The Conference of Catholic Bishops just issued this major Statement on
> Religious Liberty:
> I'd be curious to hear what others think of it. Its basic thrust is that
> religious liberty is now acutely "under attack" in the U.S., in a way it
> has not been in quite a while. Indeed, "what is at stake" is no less than "whether
> America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or
> whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common
> good, and how they get to do it." Do you think they've made the case for
> such an indictment?
> Furthermore, it quotes liberally from Dr. King's letter from the
> Birmingham jail, and urges citizens to "have the courage" not to obey the
> laws that allegedly are presenting this profound threat. (What are the
> odds there will be much civil disobedience of the laws they have in mind?
> -- not a rhetorical question.) And it invokes Lincoln at Gettysburg in
> asking for a fast "for a new birth of freedom in our beloved country."
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