For years we’ve seen signs that the constitutionally protected freedom of religion is under new and real threats. The temptation may have been to think ‘Yeah….but’…and not really believe it could become in America what it is in oppressive countries. If so, think again. (After all, remember…the Constitution was intended and worded to protect life. Look where that went.)
Cardinal Francis George has a sobering column out, and snips of it grabbed my attention.
The challenge to religious freedom is clearer in countries whose governments actively persecute the church. In our own country, the challenge to the church’s freedom is basically cultural; anti-Catholic bigotry is an acceptable prejudice and the church is often regarded with contempt, which sometimes reduces her freedom of action.
This is not news, but a reminder. However, here he takes a turn…
For many years, the church could rely upon the law in this country to protect her against enemies; now, however, the law itself is often adversarial, used to destroy rather than protect. The Catholic Church in this country is perhaps less free to govern herself now than at any time since the founding of the American Republic.
Think about that. Laws are getting more restrictive on freedom of religion and conscience protections. Like the new Illinois civil union law that claims to also guarantee religious freedom…
But the end of the 111th Congress and the seating of the newly elected one after Christmas is a new day for interpreting and applying legal mandates.
…Pope Benedict XVI said: “One of the most important cultural challenges in our own post-modern world involves the way we understand truth. The dominant culture, the culture propagated by the marketplace of the media, adopts a skeptical and relativist attitude towards truth, considering it as equivalent to mere opinion and, consequently, believing that many truths can legitimately coexist. But the desire that lies in the heart of man testifies to the impossibility of resting content with partial truths…
Spot on. Who wants a “partial truth”? But even getting to that understanding is a gnarly issue.
Let’s get back to Cardinal George’s assessment that the current cultural climate is hostile to religious freedom and self-determination. And concede the point that religious liberty is under threat.
The U.S. government’s ability to promote any kind of human rights in other nations is obviously limited. Nevertheless, religious liberty is the proverbial canary in the mine. If a state won’t respect this most basic freedom of conscience, it isn’t likely to respect people’s lives and dignity in any context…
Washington’s ability to promote religious liberty overseas always will be limited. Nevertheless, religious persecution must be part of Washington’s human rights dialogue with other nations.
But that will go nowhere if it doesn’t begin at home.