The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a “call to action to defend religious liberty” and is urging lay individuals to strive to protect the First Freedom of the Bill of Rights.
In a news release on Thursday, the USCCB stated that it is calling upon dioceses to pursue a “religious liberty fortnight” from June 21st through July 4th, a special period of prayer for religious liberty. The bishops have published a document entitled, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” in which they assert:
We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other.
We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past. We have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today…for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.
The document provides some “concrete examples” of how religious liberty is under attack. Among them are:
- The HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs
- State immigration laws which forbid the Church to provide “Christian charity and pastoral care” to undocumented immigrants.
- A 2009 bill put forward by the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut Legislature that would have forced Catholic parishes to be restructured according to a “congregational model.”
- The University of California Hastings College of Law’s denial of student organization status to the Christian Legal Society.
- The termination of Catholic foster care and adoption services in some cities because the charities refused to place children with same-sex or unmarried couples.
In their document, the bishops quote recently retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who said, in response to the HHS mandate: “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic community can muster.”
To that end, the bishops urge that the fourteen days- or fortnight- from June 21st– the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More- to July 4th, Independence Day, be declared a “fortnight for freedom.”