The Often-Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Freedom

The Often-Forgotten Dimensions of Religious Freedom February 2, 2012

There has been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s egregious violation of religious freedom through its contraception mandate. There has not been a lot of talk about the other areas where religious freedom is under threat today.

One of those core areas is immigration, where some states are enacting laws that basically outlaw the practice of core tenets of the Christian faith. Think of Alabama. Here, the Catholic Church is suing – alongside some key Protestant denominations – on the grounds that the law violates religious freedom. On this issue, the Obama administration is on their side, and the Department of Justice has opened a lawsuit against Alabama. But here, as noted by Michael Sean Winters, Catholic candidate New Gingrich is on record saying that he would stop this lawsuit. Gingrich, true to form, is calling out the Obama administration for being anti-Catholic on the issues of religious freedom. Gingrich needs to look in the mirror. If Obama is anti-Catholic, then so is he. Religious freedom is a universal principle, not something to be applied selectively based on ideology.

And then there is the military. It is a well-established position of the Catholic Church that armed forces should recognize the right to conscientious objection – not just as a general principle, but for particular military encounters. Here is how the USCCB puts it in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: “Our Church honors the commitment and sacrifice of those who serve in our nation’s armed forces, and also recognizes the moral right to conscientious objection to war in general, a particular war, or a military procedure”. Not recognizing this right is an attack on conscience, and implicitly an attack on religious freedom. This is especially pertinent for the United States military, which is engaged in so many foreign adventures of doubtful and dubious value. And yet which president or presidential candidate has the courage to stand up for this principle? No, religious freedom is an important issue, and it goes far far beyond healthcare.

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