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Substitute for resolutions 22, 37, 62, 143,
221, 244, 275, 315, 317, 321 and 337

In Defense of Religious Liberty

      WHEREAS, the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae that the right to religious freedom is based upon the inherent dignity of the human person which requires that all people are to be free from coercion in matters of belief and conscience, and that no one should be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs or conscience; and

      WHEREAS, the right to religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other documents recognizing religious freedom; and

      WHEREAS, religious freedom is not a benefit that a government confers out of a sense of mere tolerance, which can be removed, but rather it is an inalienable right, rooted in the transcendent dignity of every human being; and

      WHEREAS, Pope Francis has called religious freedom, “a fundamental right of man,” that is “not simply freedom of thought or private worship,” but “the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly…;” and

      WHEREAS, the Knights of Columbus since its founding has worked to defend religious freedom for Catholics and all people, and has done so out of our commitment to our faith and our unshakeable belief that religious freedom is a basic civil right; and

      WHEREAS, the Order’s work on behalf of religious freedom included efforts in the U.S. Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which affirmed the right of children to a Catholic education in opposition to the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan; and

      WHEREAS, our work for religious freedom also included activities to protest the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920s, as well as efforts to combat the anti-religious worldview of Communism, and the inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to distinguish the United States from anti-religious governments; and

      WHEREAS, the numerous threats to religious liberty that have appeared in recent years are among the most serious intrusions on religious liberty we have seen in our lifetimes; and

      WHEREAS, Pope Francis has urged the Knights of Columbus to draw the attention of Catholic Americans “to contribute to the reasoned defense” of religious freedom and reminded us that, “to the extent that this right is menaced…there is a need for a mobilization of consciences on the part of all those citizens who, regardless of party or creed, are concerned for the overall welfare of society.”

      NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that as citizens and as Knights of Columbus, we will remain steadfast in our support for the free exercise of religion as it is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other documents recognizing religious freedom; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we extend our deep appreciation to our Supreme Chaplain, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, for his stalwart defense of religious liberty as Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty for the past six years and applaud the recent decision by the U.S. Bishops to approve the establishment of a standing Committee for Religious Liberty; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we stand firm in our conviction that the full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to “freedom of worship” as some have attempted, but must include full “freedom of religion,” which necessarily encompasses the public dimension of religion, the freedom from persecution or discrimination on the basis of conscience and belief, and the fact that believers are called to play an active role in building the social order; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the appropriate government officials to rescind the HHS Mandate and make every effort to promote robust religious freedom protections throughout the U.S. Government; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on the U.S. Congress to consider and pass the Conscience Protection Act and a robust First Amendment Defense Act, both of which will protect the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions of all persons; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon all government officials in all of the countries where we are active to enact similar legislation that will protect the right of religious institutions and individuals to be free from government coercion in all matters; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will remain steadfast in our opposition to future governmental actions or policies that force institutions and individuals to violate their most deeply held moral and religious convictions; and

      FURTHER RESOLVED, that our struggle for religious freedom at this decisive moment in our history is not only for our sake, but for the sake of our children, our grandchildren and all future generations, so that they too may know a country that is “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”