Knights of Columbus   Print This Page | Close This Window
Archived Online Discussion
Topic: The Right to be Wrong
Date: 4:30-5:30 pm (ET)
on Thursday, February 22, 2007
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
Kevin Hasson
Wallingford, CT
Thank you, Seamus, for writing this book, and thank you Mr. Anderson for selecting it for inclusion in the book club. I enjoyed the witty treatment of such a complex issue.
Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you for your kind comments. In choosing this book for the book club, it was my hope that people would have access to important information in a very user-friendly and enjoyable format. I am glad you liked it.

Kevin Hasson:
Thank you. The whole art to this is picking a serious topic without taking oneself too seriously.

The Becket Fund currently represents the K of C in a court case to keep "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. What can you tell us about the progress of this case?
Kevin Hasson:
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has the case under submission. It has not yet scheduled oral argument, and there is no firm schedule. It could be 30 days or 6 months. If the Court of Appeals agrees with the district court and strikes down "under God," then it would certainly go to the Supreme Court. That would be in about a year from now. If the court agrees with us, then it is much less likely that the Supreme Court would take the case. The Knights in California in addition to the Supreme Council are "defendant intervenors." They have joined the litigation on the side of the government. They have a special interest to protect; the Knights' role is getting "under God" recognized as an idea that belonged in the Pledge. The individuals got involved because they have children and want them to pledge to uphold a country that knows its freedoms and liberties come from God.

Why is there so much chit-chatting before and after Holy Mass at our churches as if Jesus was not there in the Tabernacle and why do we never hear any homilies to correct this disrespect?
Carl A. Anderson:
This may reflect a distressing evidence of surveys which show that a significant number of Catholics no longer believe in the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. That is why the Knights of Columbus has in recent years promoted Eurcharistic adoration, and three International Knights of Columbus Eucharist Congresses.

Jeremy Radford. FA
Blue Springs, Missouri, USA
The cover art has striking similarities to the final scene of the Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" movie. Was this image choice intentional or coincidental?
Kevin Hasson:
It's a complete coincidence. Mel Gibson endorsed the book and said that if you care about religion in America read this book. Nevertheless, the artist we hired to come up with the cover art found this independent of Mel Gibson's movie or his endorsement. She simply thought that a sword stuck in the ground to symboize the end of a battle was an appropriate image.

Springfield, MA
People are being persecuted (and/or prosecuted) for speaking out against so-called homosexual marriage. How does one respect the conscience of another with regard to such highly-charged and contentious issues as this?
Carl A. Anderson:
While we respect the dignity of each individual, we also respect the dignity of the institution of marriage, which is not the creature of the state, but as the Supreme Court itself recognized, preexists our constitutional system.

Tucson, AZ
Can you bring us up to date on the current challenges to the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, especially the involvement of California Knights and their families in a possible Supreme Court case?
Carl A. Anderson:
We are honored to have led the charge in the 1950s to get the words "under God" in the Pledge, and we are happy to continue to work to keep those words in the pledge.

College Park, Md
Too often today one’s conscience is what prevailing culture wants it to be (i.e., abortion, human cloning, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, etc.) How can one properly “respect” a conscience that is misinformed by pop culture?
Carl A. Anderson:
What we are really talking about is an uninformed or misinformed conscience. And the way we show such a conscience the most respect, is by respectfully attempting to educate it.

Lafayette, CO
You corrected my false notion that the Pilgrims came for religious freedom. They came for freedom from other people's religion. Now many turn that into freedom from any religion. The founders meant our nation should offer freedom OF religion. Comment?
Kevin Hasson:
There's no question that the founders' notion of religious liberty was freedom "of" religion not freedom "from" religion. That means that real religious liberty is the freedom to seek the truth and embrace what you believe you've found and respect it in public. The false notion of religious freedom that the secularists have been peddling for decades now is that believing in public is like smoking in public. It's impolite at best and illegal at worst. They say, "Believe in the privacy of your home if you need to, but don't expose others to second-hand faith". That would appall the founders; it should appall us too.

Miami, FL
With all the news about conscience rights in medical situations, how broadly would you draw the ideal conscience clause? What things would be covered?
Carl A. Anderson:
Rights of conscience before have been looked at in a piecemeal way. We need to look at something that is as broad as possible for both individuals and institutions, and such comprehensive protection must also protect against harassment, demotion, reduction in salary, or denial of benefits or licensing. These rights are recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the American context, Americans United for Life has drafted a model law that is a good place to begin.

New Haven, CT
Last fall you spoke to more than 200 college Knights at the annual college conference. What was your message to them?
Kevin Hasson:
That we should never get used to the culture war. People over the last 40 years are used to hearing the case made in public that there is no such thing as truth. That is completely foreign to the Western tradition. For all but the last 40 years, we've been fighting about what truth is. The culture war is an assault by people who believe in nothing against the very idea of believing in anything. It must be resisted at all costs across the board.

Arlington, VA
I have heard it said that the religious freedom experience in America contributed to the Church's development of its concerns and teachings about religious freedom. Could you comment on that?
Kevin Hasson:
An American Jesuit, Father John Courtney Murray, was an invited expert at the Vatican Council II. He noted the tension between the American Catholic experience of religious freedom, which was on the whole positive, and the current theological analysis of religious freedom, which was bogged down in a more negative assessment. He proposed to transcend the tension and brought with him a draft document on religious freedom that argued for religious freedom based on the "emerging consensus of the nations". Archbishop Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) was instrumental in moving the discussion off that basis and on to that of the dignity of the human person. That pivot was essential to grounding religious liberty, not in things changeable, but in things unchangeable. It was also a premise that adversaries, both Communists in Poland and secularists in the West, would have to at least pretend to grant. It was a solution that was inspired in more ways than one.

What can Knights do to ensure that people of different faiths continue to maintain a "right to be wrong"? In other words, how can the Knights, a Catholic organization, help ensure religious liberty for others?
Carl A. Anderson:
One place to begin is in the effort to recognize the right of conscience. We've seen this especially in the issue of abortion, but now there are many other cases in which rights of conscience are violated. As Knights of Columbus, we must insist that everyone's right of conscience is respected.

Tony Genco
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada
How do we overcome the seemingly inherent obstacle of living in a contemporary society as a person of faith, and being able to not be seen as "unstable" because one's faith guides one's decision making at work at home and at play?
Carl A. Anderson:
First of all, this is a question that Christians have confronted since the early Church. Living in a non-Christian culture, many of the things Christians do may look odd to non-Christians. Nonetheless, we must persevere and witness to them by the way we live the authentic truth of the Gospel of life.

Kevin Hasson:
One of the beauties of Catholicism is that there is a relationship between faith and reason. While our faith sometimes goes beyond reason, it's "reasonable." That's what allows for the type of argument I try to make in my book -- an argument for religious freedom based on historical fact and philosophical anthropology. One can make a similar argument in daily life by always presenting one's faith as reasonable and this way we can imitate St. Francis' famous admonition to "preach always, use words when necessary."

For years the First Amendment has been used to deprive religious people of the public display of religious symbols. Are we reaching a point where the notion of religious liberty can be used by religious people to restore some of what has been taken away?
Kevin Hasson:
Yes! The legal standard for ethnic and racial distinctions made by the government is identical to the legal standard for religious distinctions made by the government. They are in different parts of the Constitution, but the legal standards they set out is the same. Nonetheless, Anglophiles don't sue to block St. Patrick's Day parades as Irish supremacists' plots and European Americans don't try to enjoin African American History Month as a racist power grab. The same common sense should apply in Nativity scenes and menorahs. We don't deal with diversity by pretending we're all male, or all white, or all Irish. There's no reason to deal with diversity by pretending we're all agnostic either.

Austin, Tx
In a culture steeped in Relativism does it not seem that by protecting everyone's right to be wrong we are endorsing Relativism?
Carl A. Anderson:
We respect the right of conscience precisely because of the demands that the truth makes upon the human conscience. This is what St. Paul means when he talks about the law that is written on the human heart. This is a very different thing from relativism. Relativism leads to the abandonment of respect of conscience, because for the relativist, at the end of the day it makes no difference.

Kansas City, MO
How do you define religion? What distinguishes a religion from belief systems that are not necessarily religions?
Carl A. Anderson:
In its most fundamental sense a religion responds in some way to man's search for the transcendental meaning of life, so it is a very different matter from a belief system such as secular humanism, which nonetheless has principles that are "taken on faith." However, the last thing that we would want is government telling us which is an acceptable religion and which is not.

Noel Villamor
Davao City, Philippines
An Amazon customer review states that the book's conclusion was "govt should sponsor religion". I haven't read the book and I am not sure if you are well informed of the Church/State dynamics here in the Philippines. Will your arguments be relevant to us?
Kevin Hasson:
Don't believe everything you read on Amazon. I read that review too and wondered if he had accidentally reviewed someone else's book. The conclusion of my book is that religious expression is a good thing that the government ought to welcome. That's very different from saying it's something the government should pay for. The premise that religious liberty is a basic human right supports the argument that religious liberty ought to be the same everywhere. Of course there are practical impediments to seeing this achieved in many places.

New York, NY
If we try to end the "culture wars" does that mean Catholics have to be quiet about the Church's claim to be the one true faith?
Carl A. Anderson:
The Lord once said, "They will know you are my followers by the way you love one another." In other words, the best way to demonstrate the one true faith is by living an authentic gospel of life for their neighbors to see.

Bill Briere, Wyoming State Deputy
Laramie, Wyoming, USA
If you were to advise a fledgling democracy's leaders as they drafted a new constitution, and if each political party represented a religion or religious faction, which 2-3 indispensible words or phrases would you want them to include in the document?
Kevin Hasson:
"Dignity of the human person" is the fundamental basis from Vatican II's Dignitatis Humanae. That's what I'd recommend. It was put there largely at the instigation of Cardinal Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. It is the fundamental idea from which all religious liberty derives. Namely, that we have dignity because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and we have intellect and free will that reaches out for the true and the good, and yearns for the truth that is the surpassing good, which is God alone. Religious liberties and the implications that come from that is the concordat between the Church and the then newly free government of Poland which John Paul II had a major interest in. If you compare it to what went before it in Polish history, the Church was happy to grant other faiths some sort of political freedom that in pre-Communist Poland the Church enjoyed alone. Nevertheless, it wanted to keep Catholicism's role in the culture recognized.

Carl Scarim
Wonder Lake, IL. USA
I really enjoyed reading this selection. Thank you for the amount of background on early American history you detailed. Are there any local offices for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty? How would someone contact them?
Kevin Hasson:
There is only the national office in Washington D.C., but we operate in all 50 states and overseas as well. Our Web site is and you can e-mail us from there. 1-800-BECKET5 is our toll free number. We’d be happy to hear from you. We'd love to have your support and add you to our mail list or e-mail list for regular updates. We helped a pastor in Sweden a year or so ago who was convicted of a hate crime for preaching against homosexual activity. We've also worked in Australia and several other countries. Sometimes we hear about people in need of our services and seek them out; other times they find us.

Copyright © Knights of Columbus. All rights reserved.