Rallying for Religious Liberty

(I had the privilege of addressing the June 8 Stand Up for Religious Liberty Rally, which was held on the steps of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan — the location where the Bill of Rights was passed. Other speakers included Chris Bell from Good Counsel Homes, Dr. Anne Nolte of the Gianna Center, Maria McFadden Maffucci of the Human Life Review, and Dr. Alveda King.  Dozens of similar rallies were held across the country.  Here are the remarks I offered.)

We are gathered here in a place where our human rights — including the freedom of religion — were recognized at the foundation of our nation.

We are gathered here today as people of many faiths, but we share some common truths. We believe that God created each and every human person in His image and likeness, male and female he created us. We believe that there is a purpose and meaning in our sexuality, and that there is a fixed eternal definition of marriage (one man, one woman, open to new life). We believe that fertility is a gift, and that every life is a blessing to be protected and cherished. We believe that we have the fundamental right to live according to these truths, to live according to our faith, and that no government, no law, can take these rights away.

But now, we are now faced with a government, with a law, that is trying to take these rights away. We are facing an ideology based on lies — the lie that marriage can be redefined, that fertility is a curse, that life is a burden to be discarded when unwanted, and that religious faith should be removed from public life. This government is trying to divide us, and force us to reject the truth that we hold to, to reject our faith, and to live according to their lies.

We cannot stand for this. We are united in the defense of our religious freedom. We are united in standing up for the truth. We will resist this. We are not powerless — our unity and our faith in God gives us strength. We can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

Our resistance does not come with a spirit of anger or hatred. It comes from love — love for God, love for our nation, love for those who oppose us, love for our children and neighbors, and love for the truth. We are not about politics. We are about principle. We do not ask for special treatment. We ask only for our rights. We are not looking to divide. We wish to unite, and heal. We are not seeking power. We are seeking conversion. We are not “protestors”. We are American citizens — and proud of it.

Later this month, people of faith across our nation will join in a Fortnight for Freedom – a great prayer for our nation.

We pray that our government will respect fundamental rights.

We pray that all Americans will re-dedicate themselves to the freedoms we hold most dear.

We pray that our nation, under God, will have a new birth of freedom, and that faith, and truth, and liberty, will never be threatened again.

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6 Responses to “Rallying for Religious Liberty”

  1. Dear Ed,
    Everyone seems to be on this band wagon. But there is a more fundamental problem which is hidden and driven more and more underground by this huge upfrontness on religious freedom.
    Religious freedom is the result of the consciousness of the power and right to self-determine vis a vis divine revelation. It is the recognition of the autonomy of the human person to determine self. In the contraceptive issue, we have voided that freedom by the overwhelming use of the contraceptive (90% of child-bearing Catholics?). It is absolutely essential that we seize this moment to directly address the topic of the contraceptive and the “reasoning” of “Humanae Vitae” that no one gets on an empirical and conceptual level (precisely because it is not understood first on that level). This year of faith and silence will give the space to articulate this truth and call for a revolution within ourselves. That lacking, the hoopla over religious freedom vis a vis the government obfuscates the real issue that religious freedom must be built on.

  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The current emphasis on religious freedom is a part of the larger battle — just as the invasion of Normandy was part of the liberation of Europe.

    The fundamental conflict going on in our culture is anthropological — what does it mean to be a human person? The forces that are arrayed against us (secularism, relativism, hedonism) have a narrow, crabbed view of humanity despite their self-proclaimed open-mindedness and appeals to science.

    The Christian understanding of the human person is much broader and deeper. Inherent in that vision is an understanding of sexuality that transcends the mere pleasurable, and that touches upon the existential.

    Contraception is the focal point of the struggle between these two anthropological views. We will not engage the real battle until we are facing that.

  3. Drake says:

    The alleged war on religious freedom is a farce. The fact is that never have Catholic organizations and schools received so much public funding in different forms, whereas once these same entities were entirely self-supporting by donations made by the Catholic faithful. There have never been more Catholics in the US than today, Catholics have never been wealthier than they are today, yet Catholics are no longer writing the checks to the unaccountable hierarchy, which has squandered billions of dollars in the abuse scandal settlements and court judgments. Regrettably, our hierarchy is adopting the same failed model of Church support , i.e., trying to milk more funds out of the government when the faithful loose their faith in the leader, as the European hierarchies have used with dwindling Church memberships every year since WW II.

    The Bishops chose to oppose President Obama from the start of his presidency, with the first big attacks when it was announced that he was to speak at Notre Dame University. The Catholic hierarchy arrogantly chose to attack our nation’s first African-American President, and missed many opportunities to promote ending racism in our country with their Obama attacks. The rules that the bishops are now whining about have been in effect more than a decade in more than half the states of the country. The Supreme Court of California has ruled against the Church on the same state rules which are the subjects of the current court challenges. Other bishops all over the US have accepted the contraception mandates for a decade, including in New York. However, now tsome bishops have decided to again make it a personalized attack on President Obama. The ad hominen slurs have been shameful, as exemplified by Bishop Jenky’s comparison of Pres. Obama to Hitler and Stalin.
    Now, a few cardinals and bishops are leading the charge in this election year, instead of attempting fruitful discussion and negotiation of the subjects in question. It is so regrettably that the Cardinals and bishops are making our sacred Mass political rallies with the numerous letters from the Ordinary that are read at all the masses. I hope that Catholics of conscience object to this abuse of the holy rites, and the lack of respect that the hierarchy shows those attending mass that they must listen to the political rants read to them, in a setting that does not allow any response by those forced to sit and listen. I recall how the Holy Eucharist once was a great and sublime sacrament. Now some bishops have determined that it is a political weapon. I find it truly horrifying that several bishops are deciding that they do not have enough to do in straightening out our church, but rather are running our religion as if it were a PAC (political action committee). What a shame that no issue of social justice , whether it be war, the minimum wage , or the myriad of other issues, has ever motivated to such a swift response as the law suits they filed. They have their eyes on November. Our hierarchy has become the same as the televangelists that they once mocked from the pulpits.

  4. Ed Mechmann says:

    So it’s dirty “politics” and impermissible when the bishops speak out in defense of their natural and constitutional right to religious liberty, even after months of “negotiation” failed to bring about any change whatsoever in the contested regulations.

    But nary a word for criticism for professional politicians, who are perpetually running for re-election and raising money for their campaigns, who declare that they’re at “war” with those who disagree with them, and who change the law to serve the ideological and financial interests of their ardent supporters. Nor for those same politicians who unconditionally favor the dismemberment of unborn children, and insist that others pay for it regardless of their faith-based moral revulsion.

    Got it. Thanks for the moral clarity.

  5. Drake says:

    Thank-you for publishing my previous comment.

    I also wish to add that the bishops as a group have not had a constructive role in the national health care debate. The committee headed by Cardinal Justin Rigali opposed the Affordable Care Act. Several major Catholic organizations supported it. Many additional tens of millions of Americans will finally have health care, necessary for LIFE. In a pro-life faith, we should all be looking for common ground to extend health care in our mulit-ethnic, multi-religious, diverse society. My neighbors with a disabled child are finally able to insure her, no longer barred by “pre-existing conditions”. In our troubled economy, our young people, already graduating from college with mountains of student loan debt, many unable to find jobs with health care benefits, can stay on their parents’ policies. These, and many other improvements are promoting LIFE for all of our society.
    Our hierarchy has the best health care that money can buy for themselves, unlike the employees of many catholic organizations, such as Catholic Charities in Washington, DC. Do the bishops worry about the real world day to day realities of getting health care on a national basis for such a diverse country as is the USA? They promote legislation that would only suit Vatican City. We see how our hierarchy is managing the scandal ridden Vatican Bank, how the Church has had less than a good influence in societies in which it has used its sharp elbows in politics, such as in Italy and in Ireland. Let’s hope that our bishops focus more on the Two Great Commandments and get out of politics.

  6. Ed Mechmann says:

    The bishops of the United States have favored reforms in our health care system for decades. They have repeatedly made concrete proposals on how to do so. They have demonstrated how to do so in our health care system — the largest private system of hospitals and health care agencies in America. They have been major players in health care reform legislation — and every player in Washington and state capitals knows it.

    Everyone who followed the process in 2009-10 knows that the bishops desperately wanted to support a health reform bill (remember, the Affordable Care Act was not the only bill proposed back then — there were several). They essentially begged the Administration and Congress to remove elements in those bills that they found problematic or offensive — subsidies and payments for abortion, failure to protect immigrants, failure to protect conscience rights, etc. — so they could support the bill. The Administration and Congress refused, so the bishops very reluctantly opposed that particular bill.

    It’s actually ironic that you accuse the bishops of opposing reform — so many liberals accuse the bishops of being drop-dead obstructionists, while just as many conservatives believe that the bishops were instrumental in getting the bill passed.

    The reality is simpler — the bishops wanted a reform bill to pass, but it had to respect basic principles, including respect for human life and conscience, and fairness to the poor and needy. This bill failed that test, so they opposed it.