Praying and Acting for Liberty (Part I)

In recent years, our U.S. Bishops have asked us to pray and act to defend our religious liberty in the period from June 22nd through the 4th of July. (June 22nd marks the feast day of some great martyrs for religious liberty, Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher). It is easy to forget how important it is to keep our eye on the ball here, with the distraction of the news being focused almost exclusively last year on the Covid-19 epidemic and racial issues.

But even in these times, it is of critrical importance to remain vigilant to make sure that it is not taken away from us. I have written several pieces on these issues in the parish blog and bulletin (see and, but I wanted to pull a few of them together here, to emphasize just how pressing the problem continues to be.

We start with the epidemic itself. We can not forget that for the first time in the lifetime of every parishioner (at least those who have lived their whole lives in the United States), we saw government agencies force the closure of churches. Depending on the diocese, many of the bishops did not put up much resistance to this, even though it is highly questionable whether the state had the authority to do so, even in an emergency situation. We are blessed to have a fair governor in Ohio. Other states were not so fortunate. Reasonable people can argue whether or not it was prudent to close, but what can’t be reasonably argued is whether governments can selectively close churches at the expense of keeping comparable public spaces open. This certainly happened in many states, where abortion facilities, marijuana dispensaries, casinos and other public places were far less restricted than Christian churches. In some particularly outrageous examples, such as in California, the number of worshipers was restricted to an arbitrary and tiny number, regardless of how large the physical space, so that, for example, a cavernous cathedral could still have only 10 people in it a time, making the celebration of holy Mass almost impossible. Eventually, some of the more egregious governmental overreaches where reined in by the courts, but not after months of the suppression of worship. This should be a blaring alarm bell for Christians serious about their faith that many governments are ready and willing to take away our religious liberty if we let them.

Things are worse in places such as Canada and Europe, where worshipers were sometimes physically dragged from their churches during worship services because of their violation of Covid restrictions.

Here in the States, there is some good news. A very recent Supreme Court decision reined in the abuse of religious liberty by the City of Philadelphia. That “city of brotherly love” was not so loving to Catholics and other Christians. They passed an ordinance requiring all adoption and foster care agencies to follow their “non discrimination” guidelines, which insisted that children be placed equally in homes of a husband and wife as with a same-sex couple. The Catholic Social Services agency affiliated with the Church could not do so, because the Church holds as a matter of faith and natural law that children have a right to a mother and a father. As a result, the City unilaterally rescinded their contract with the agency, even though CSS had been doing good work in foster care for many, many decades.

The Supreme Court’s decided unanimously that the City acted in an unconstitutional manner. That’s good news, of course, but not great news. That’s because they made the decision on the basis of a legal technicality (having to do with whether exceptions to the law were granted uniformly). As some of the Justices pointed out, that means that the City could revamp their exceptions and still give the boot to Catholic Social Services. In other words, the Court declined to address the root issue: whether or not a Catholic adoption agency could follow its faith in all circumstances, so there could still be trouble ahead.

The current presidential administration of Joseph Biden is already posing serious concerns in the area of religious liberty, with some actions already compromising the conscience rights of Catholics and traditional Christians and more on the horizon that could be quite disturbing if they pass through Congress.

For example, Mr. Biden has already taken action to force Americans to help fund abortion both at home and abroad and is working on measures to increase this. Mr. Biden took many immediate executive actions within hours of being named president to roll back protections that Mr. Trump had put in place during his term in office, to prevent taxpayers from being required to violate their consciences by supporting abortion whenever they paid taxes. He has also restored taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion mill in the country. To understand what is happening here, I recommend checking out the website of Susan B. Anthony list, a pro-life agency, at

Not all of the threats to religious liberty come from the governmental sphere. Many in the corporate world are pressured to support various causes that violate their beliefs. The corporate culture makes clear that if they do not come out supporting such things as “Pride month” they can not advance in the company, or perhaps even keep their jobs. This is a problem for those who want to publicly express their Christian views. More later.

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