OREM, Utah — The nation’s Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told a crowd of more than 3,000 gathered in Orem, Utah for a patriotic event held each year around the Fourth of July.
The defense of religious freedom is the “quintessential American cause, the foundation of all other human rights,” he said, adding that other liberties promised by the Bill of Rights would be in jeopardy if freedom of religion is diluted.
“Simply put, my friends, government has no business interfering in the eternal life, the soul, the conscience or the Church,” he said to applause. “Protect our free exercise, and then leave us alone.”
Cardinal Dolan gave the keynote address at the June 30 event, held at the UCCU Events Center on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem. It was part of the America’s Freedom Festival at Provo.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City gave the invocation.
“In your goodness you call us tonight to recognize our unity in the midst of diversity,” to gather as brothers and sisters regardless of differences of culture and religious affiliations, the bishop said. He prayed that government leaders would extend religious freedom in the United States and throughout the world.
Cardinal Dolan said that he fears “our first and most cherished liberty” is in danger even though it “has been and is the most driving force for every enlightened, unshackling, noble cause in American history.”
Religious freedom is the “quintessential American cause,” the cardinal said, adding that “we citizens of any and all faiths, or of none at all, are not paranoid and self-serving in defending what we hold as ours, but are in fact protecting the country we love. We act not as sectarians but as responsible citizens. We act on behalf of the truth about the human person.”
These days, freedom of religion is threatened by secularists, who believe that religion has no place in the public square, but “our faith just isn’t about showing up on Sunday, it’s about what we do on Monday through Saturday!” Cardinal Dolan said.
Another threat comes from government intrusion into the Church’s ministries, message and meaning, he added.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you, but recently a prominent Catholic political leader in Washington stated that, ‘You know, my Church needs to get over this conscience thing,’” Cardinal Dolan said. “Well, no, we don’t.”
“As a matter of fact,” he continued, “no, we can’t, neither as believers nor as loyal American citizens. … All we want, along with those first patriots, the abolitionists, the William Jennings Bryants, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, the Rev. Martin Luther King, is the freedom to carry the convictions of a faith-born conscience into our public lives.”
“We want to let freedom ring, and that’s why I’m so thrilled to be with you tonight. God Bless America,” he concluded.