131st Supreme Convention

IN DEFENSE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

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, the right to religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, religious freedom means that all persons are to be free from coercion in matters of belief and conscience, and that no person should be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs or conscience; and

WHEREAS, during his visit to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that it should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy our rights and that it is inconceivable that believers should have to suppress their faith in order to be active citizens; and

WHEREAS, the Church consistently teaches that religious freedom is an inalienable 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, which can be removed, 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 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18, recognizes that, “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”; and

WHEREAS, 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

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 guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other documents recognizing religious freedom; and

WHEREAS, this work on behalf of religious freedom includes efforts in the U.S. Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which affirmed the right of children to a Catholic education, activities to publicize and protest the persecution of Catholics in Mexico under President Plutarco Callas, efforts to combat the anti-religious worldview of Communism, 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, on June 28, 2013, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires all Americans to subsidize health insurance plans that provide full coverage for surgical sterilizations and contraception, including abortifacients such as “morning after” pills; and

WHEREAS, these abortion-inducing drugs attack a developing unborn child either before or after implantation in the mother’s womb; and

WHEREAS, the HHS mandate intrudes upon the free exercise of religion by granting no meaningful exemption or accommodation to Catholic hospitals, dioceses, charities, social service agencies, schools, colleges and universities; and

WHEREAS, the HHS mandate seeks to force private Catholic employers and businesses — such as the Knights of Columbus — to provide all employees with insurance coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization; and

WHEREAS, one of the rationales for the HHS mandate — that abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization are less expensive than childbirth — lays the groundwork for the government to one day mandate that all health insurance plans include abortion; and

WHEREAS, the HHS mandate sets a dangerous precedent and represents one of the most serious intrusions on religious freedom in our lifetimes; and

WHEREAS, in light of the continued effort to redefine marriage, Catholic institutions and individuals are under increased pressure to participate in ceremonies and services that would violate their consciences; and

WHEREAS, Catholic Charities has ceased their renowned adoption services in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., and Illinois over demands that they place children in same-sex households.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we will remain steadfast in our efforts to defend religious freedom as an inherent right of all citizens; and

FURTHER 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 stand in solidarity with our bishops in their call to the Catholic faithful, and to all Americans, to join together in the great struggle to oppose the HHS mandate and to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the Obama Administration to rescind the HHS mandate which is a clear and direct violation of our religious liberty rights; and

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

FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will remain steadfast in our opposition to future governmental actions or policies that force Catholic institutions and individuals to violate our 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.”