U.S. Bishops Call for ‘Religious Freedom’ in Face of Persecution

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THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

The United States Bishops are calling for prayer and action “in support of religious liberty at home and abroad” during Religious Freedom Week, which will run from June 22 to June 29.

“Catholics face challenges both in our current political climate of polarization and within the Church,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, the chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty. “Christian child welfare institutions and Catholics in public life are encountering significant obstacles to their work, while our brothers and sisters in places like Nigeria suffer violent persecution.”

In referring to problems “Christian child welfare institutions” face, Archbishop Kurtz was referencing numerous recent legal conflicts regarding Christian adoption and foster care facilities whose traditional understanding of the family has not yielded to contemporary attempts to redefine marriage and family.

Last December, for example, New Hope Family Services, an evangelical Christian adoption agency in Upstate New York, came under fire from child-welfare officials who insisted that New Hope had to agree to place children with same-sex couples, contrary to its religious beliefs and decades-old policies.

The bishops have declared:

Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

The bishops have also stated that the Equality Act being pushed by the Democrat party, which would add the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of sex in federal civil rights laws, “would devastate the core ministries of a wide range of religious groups, especially those ministries that serve the most vulnerable.”

Kurtz’s mention of “violent persecution” of Christians in Nigeria referred to the slaughter of hundreds of Christians by Islamist radicals in north central Nigeria in the first months of 2019. Despite a mainstream media blackout of the massacres, Fulani jihadists went on a killing spree of Christians, murdering more than 120 in just three weeks and leaving scores more injured.

The United States bishops have called religious liberty “our first, most cherished liberty,” and have said that it is “among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores.”

The Trump administration has also made a point of restoring conscience protections to religious believers. The president declared January 16, 2018, “Religious Freedom Day” and pledged his ongoing defense of religious liberty.

“No American — whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner — should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law,” Mr. Trump wrote in a presidential proclamation.

In his proclamation, Mr. Trump said that the American Founders, “seeking refuge from religious persecution, believed in the eternal truth that freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”

The president said that he had selected January 16 as the date for the commemoration of Religious Freedom Day because it coincided with the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom of January 16, 1786.

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