Defending religious liberty is one of eight 2020 public policy priorities of the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the state’s bishops, which seeks through education and advocacy to create a culture that respects the sanctity and dignity of all human life.
Religious liberty also is one of seven areas highlighted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for action and involvement. Catholics serve in areas such as adoption and foster care, education and health care — areas where their conscience rights are under attack by a secular society that doesn’t recognize their contribution to the country’s political culture.
The issue is so important that the U.S. bishops established Religious Freedom Week, which takes place from June 22, the memorial of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, through June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Catholics across the country are asked to pray and act for the freedom to serve faithfully and with integrity.
Deacon Tyler McClay, executive director and general counsel of the Missouri Catholic Conference, warns people against undervaluing the importance of being vigilant in protecting religious liberty.
“If we want our bishops, pastors, and lay leaders to be free to instruct us on how to form our conscience in accord with our faith, and we want ourselves to be free to act in accord with our convictions publicly in our charity work, in our professional lives, and in our advocacy, we must stand up for religious liberty as a foundational principle,” McClay said.
The state’s bishops call government officials, legislators and all citizens to a respectful discourse about this challenge facing our state and nation. Of the need to defend religious liberty, they explain: “The Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the freedom to exercise one’s religious faith without threat of coercion is grounded in the dignity of the human person and that no person should be forced to act in a manner ‘contrary to his conscience,’” (“Dignitatis Humanae,” paragraph 3).
The Missouri Catholic Conference opposes unjust discrimination against people of faith, including the targeting or registering of any particular faith, and supports religious liberty protections in all human rights laws. The right to religious freedom, the MCC states, “has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself” (“Dignitatis Humanae,” paragraph 2).
The U.S. bishops state that “religious freedom means that the Church has the space to carry out her mission to serve vulnerable people; it means that all people, of all faiths, are free to worship without fear of being attacked.”
The bishops point to several areas of concern. Examples include the Little Sisters of the Poor defending their community last month against attempts to force Catholic religious to violate their conscience. The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral argument May 6 in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Additionally, the court heard oral arguments on May 11 in the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel. These cases involve the right of Catholic schools, free of government interference, to choose teachers who will teach and model the Catholic faith.
The U.S. bishops also cite Christians who suffer persecution in places like China or the Central African Republic, and ask that we pray for them and for the conversion of their persecutors, and that we seek out ways to be in solidarity with them.
Religious Freedom Week 2020: For the Good of All
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops set June 22-29 as Religious Freedom
Week, calling people to pray, reflect, and take action, both here in
this country and abroad. Each day is set aside for a different aspect of
June 22: Freedom to Serve in Health Care
governments would respect the consciences of the Little Sisters of the
Poor and all Christians who care for the sick and vulnerable.
Little Sisters’ work with elderly, low-income people is at risk because
of lawsuits brought by the states of California and Pennsylvania
against the expanded religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate,
and Catholic hospitals are constantly defending themselves against
lawsuits and government orders that try to force them to participate in
harmful procedures, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery,
and even abortion.
Act: Text “FREEDOM” to 84576 to receive news updates and action alerts.
June 23: Respect for Houses of Worship
Pray that people of all faiths would be free to worship without fear of attacks and harassment.
rise in attacks on houses of worship is an attack on religious freedom.
Gunmen have invaded churches, synagogues, and mosques and terrorized
faith communities. Churches have been desecrated. Priests all over the
world have been killed.
Act: Support increased funding for the FEMA Nonprofit Security Grant Program. This program provides grants to nonprofits, including houses of worship, to improve security.
June 24: Religious Minorities in China
Pray for the freedom of the Church in China, and that the rights of all religious minorities would be respected.
the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese citizens have limited religious
freedom. Since 2013, religious persecution has intensified under a
government campaign for the “sinicization” of religion — an effort to
have religions conform to government-sanctioned interpretations of
Chinese culture. While the Vatican has reached a provisional agreement
with China on the issue of episcopal appointments, reports of
persecution by the Chinese government persist as underground churches
are closed and their priests detained, crosses destroyed, Bibles
confiscated, and children under 18 forbidden from attending Mass and
receiving religious instruction.
with people of faith in other countries begins with learning about
their struggles. Sign up for the USCCB’s religious liberty newsletter,
First Freedom News at bit.ly/3eV83ZU.
June 25: Adoption and Foster Care
that children waiting to be placed in a loving home and the caregivers
who selflessly serve those children will find strength and support from
more children are waiting to be placed in families, faith-based child
welfare providers are being targeted for closures because of their
religious convictions. In Michigan, sexual orientation/gender identity
(SOGI) activists have gone out of their way to challenge Catholic
Charities, and Philadelphia Catholic Social Services is taking the
struggle to continue to foster children to the Supreme Court
Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act prevents faith-based child welfare
service providers from being targeted by government discrimination.
Contact your U.S. senators and representative and ask them to co-sponsor
and support the act (see bit.ly/3dLHdD8).
June 26: Border Wall Dispute in the Diocese of Brownsville
Pray that the freedom of the local churches on the U.S. southern border will be respected.
Efforts to construct a barrier on the southern border have met
resistance from the Catholic Church in Brownsville. The proposed barrier
would run through land owned by the diocese, and so the federal
government would have to take the land in order to build the wall or
fence. Freedom of the Church means that the Church cannot be impeded by
the civil authorities from engaging in her mission. That mission
includes ministry to those fleeing violence and poverty.
Act: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
(RFRA) has provided persons of all faiths with protection against
government intrusion. However, RFRA is under attack. The “Do No Harm
Act” and the “Equality Act” weaken RFRA. Encourage your representative
to protect all people of faith and do no harm to RFRA.
June 27: Catholic Schools
Pray that Catholic schools in our country would be free to teach the truth about God and His creation.
Reflect: Catholic schools need the space to operate in accordance with Catholic convictions.
Act: Text “FREEDOM” to 84576 to receive news updates and action alerts.
June 28: Central African Republic
Pray that God would show the people of the Central African Republic the way to peace and reconciliation.
Reflect: In the Central African Republic,
2.9 million of its 4.9 million people depend on humanitarian
assistance. In 2012 a coalition of rebel groups, called the Seleka, from
the predominantly Muslim North launched a rebellion that deposed
then-president Francois Bozize in 2013. To counter the Seleka armed
groups, non-Muslim rural communities strengthened traditional
self-defense militias, called anti-balaka. Even though the conflict
started primarily over political power and access to natural resources,
the Seleka and anti-balaka forces resorted to banditry and attacks on
unarmed Muslim and Christian civilians, making religious identity a
driving force. During this civil war, Evangelical Pastor Nicolas
Guerekoyame, Catholic Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and Imam Omar
Kobine Layama led an interreligious movement to counter rising hatred
with reconciliation, and violence with peace. They championed the
preservation of their country’s diverse social fabric. Religious leaders
continue the hard work of healing the trauma of war and rebuilding a
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services joined
religious leaders on the Central African Interfaith Peacebuilding
Partnership. They support trauma-healing programs, peacebuilding
practices and other programs to help young people to learn skills,
access small scale loans and start farms and businesses. The Church also
provides humanitarian aid to the thousands of wounded and displaced
victims. Donate to Catholic Relief Services at bit.ly/2XKGzAc.
June 29: Civilize It
Pray that God would give us the grace to remember the dignity of all and invite others to do the same.
personal attacks replace honest debate, no one wins. This kind of
attack, no matter the reason, only serves to further divide our
communities. What is needed is good, honest, civil dialogue.
Act: Join USCCB’s Civilize It Campaign to help promote dignity beyond the debate. Visit civilizeit.org.
Source: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/ religious-freedom-week/index.cfm
Samples of religious freedom issues
• Protect religious
student groups on campus by prohibiting Missouri colleges and
universities from denying access to campus facilities and means of
communication to student religious groups that require those seeking a
leadership position in the group to sign a statement of belief. Many
colleges and universities require student groups to sign
non-discrimination policies stating that they will not discriminate
against anyone seeking to participate in the group. These policies have
been used on some campuses to exclude groups that hold a traditional
view of marriage and human sexuality.
• Protect the Weldon
Amendment, a federal law that prohibits discrimination by states against
health insurance plans that do not cover abortion. Since 2014, the
state of California had been forcing all employers, including religious
employers, to provide for elective abortions in their health insurance
• In some states, including Missouri, bills have been filed
that would attempt to force priests to reveal things learned in the
sacrament as a means of preventing child abuse. These bills, while
perhaps well-intentioned, would undermine the confidentiality so
necessary to the sacrament and infringe upon religious liberty.
Prohibit a child-placing agency contracting with the state to provide
foster care services from penalizing faith-based adoption and foster
care agencies for their beliefs about the nature and purpose of
To stay informed on legislation followed by the Missouri Catholic Conference, visit bit.ly/2YgjtR8.
Supreme Court decision on Title VII
Later this month,
the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to rule whether Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition against
discrimination “on the basis of sex” includes sexual orientation and
Although 25 states have laws protecting employees
from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, there is no
federal protection from such discrimination.
organizations receive certain exemptions under Title VII, but the
exemptions only apply to institutions whose “purpose and character are
primarily religious.” They do not apply in cases involving individual
business owners and hiring practices based on their personal religious