Support for Religious Liberty

Resolution on Support for Religious Liberty adopted by the 129th Supreme Convention on Aug. 4, 2011.


129th Supreme Convention

WHEREAS, the Catholic Church teaches that the right to religious freedom is based upon the inherent dignity of the human person, which is known through both reason and divine revelation; and

WHEREAS, religious freedom means that all persons are to be free from coercion in matters of belief and conscience and, within due limits, no person should be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs or conscience; and
WHEREAS, the theme of the celebration of the 2011 World Day of Peace (January 1, 2011) was “Religious Freedom, the path to peace”; and

WHEREAS, Pope Benedict affirmed that religious freedom is a path to peace precisely because without it man becomes separated from what he believes to be true and fragmented from himself and from others; and

WHEREAS, Pope Benedict XVI at the United Nations in April 2008 reminded us that it should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights and that believers should not have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens; and

WHEREAS, the Church consistently teaches that religious freedom is an inherent right which should be recognized in the governing laws of each country in such a way that it is acknowledged as a basic civil right; and

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

WHEREAS, religious freedom is at the very heart of human rights because it encompasses freedom of speech, assembly and conscience, which together form the basis of civil society and respect for the individual; and

WHEREAS, the full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to “freedom of worship” but must include full “freedom of religion,” which necessarily encompasses the public dimension of religion and the active role that religious believers have in building the social order; and

WHEREAS, a recent study documented that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is restricted, and that these restrictions range from discrimination and marginalization, to harassment, imprisonment, violence and even death for religious believers; and

WHEREAS, the absence of religious freedom in many nations is highly correlated with unstable government, low economic growth, low female literacy rates and extremist violence; and

WHEREAS, Pope Benedict has reminded us that there are many societies where more sophisticated forms of religious discrimination and marginalization exist on a cultural level and in the sphere of public, civil and political activity; and

WHEREAS, even in those nations where religious freedom is considered a constitutionally-protected right, religious leaders and others who have expressed their opinion on public policy matters based upon an understanding of their faith have been dismissed as being intolerant and bigoted, and have even been brought before administrative tribunals for violating “hate speech” laws;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we will never waver in our efforts to promote religious freedom as an inherent right of all, and that we remain steadfast in our support of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and that this right includes the freedom to manifest one’s religion in teaching, practice, worship and observance; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we pledge our prayerful solidarity and support for our fellow believers around the world – especially in Iraq, Egypt, the broader Middle East, Africa and Asia – who suffer religious persecution at the hands of hostile regimes and societies; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we resist any trend to treat religion as a purely private matter, and pledge our support for those who have been intimidated or harassed as a result of expressing their opinions on public policy matters based upon their understanding of the Catholic faith; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge our elected officials and judges to protect the religious liberty rights of all citizens; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call for the adoption of laws that recognize and protect the right of conscience for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel, guaranteeing that they may not be forced to provide medical services which violate their religious beliefs; and we insist on similar protection for Catholic hospitals.