The Catholic Church in the United States is celebrating Religious Freedom Week, highlighting Tuesday the defense of houses of worship.
The U.S. bishops have chosen a specific area of religious liberty for each day of Religious Freedom Week, beginning with Monday’s theme of religious freedom in healthcare, and followed by Tuesday’s topic of churches, mosques, and synagogues and the right to worship.
“Pray that people of all faiths would be free to worship without fear of attacks and harassment,” the bishops urge.
This theme has two angles, one of the fundamental right to freely worship God and the second the defense of houses of worship from attacks.
“Houses of worship provide spaces for people to step back, often with fellow believers, and pray,” the bishops note. “The disturbing rise in attacks on these places is an attack on religious freedom. Gunmen in churches, synagogues, and mosques terrorize faith communities.”
“In Europe and North America, churches have been desecrated,” they continue. “Priests all over the world have been killed, even while celebrating liturgies.”
This problem is not limited to attacks on Christians, they note, and there have also been attacks and vandalization of synagogues and mosques. Moreover, in some please, “there has been a rise in attacks on Jews and Muslims who are simply going about their daily life,” they note.
“These kinds of attacks are assaults on the image of God and cannot be tolerated,” they declare.
“While we should hope, pray, and work for a country where people can worship without fear, we can also take practical steps to protect churches, mosques, and synagogues,” the bishops write, which could include praying for the protection of religious freedom and support for increased funding for the FEMA Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides grants to improve security for nonprofits, including houses of worship.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on advancing international religious freedom, in which he described religious liberty as “America’s first freedom.”
“Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative,” the order states. “Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority of the United States, and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom.”