Religious freedom is more than the freedom to worship. Religious freedom is the right to hold and publicly express religious values and practice those values freely especially in our own institutions.
The fundamental concept that religion is a beneficial and valuable institution in our society is eroding. From being salutary, religion is seen as a good organization among many, then something entirely private and finally as exerting a negative impact on society.
Dr. Karl Menninger, in his book Whatever Happened to Sin? suggested that it had been legislated and adjudicated away. One could say that the same fate is overtaking religious freedom.
Catholics and others face laws and government regulations that force them to choose between violating their conscience and shutting down. Catholic agencies in other states have had to stop offering adoption services when faced with regulations forcing them to allow same-sex couples to adopt.
Catholic institutions are gradually being pressured to provide contraceptives and abortions in medical plans and provide spousal benefits to gay couples. The freedom to hire only Catholics for certain positions in our schools and agencies is being challenged.
Recently, at a gathering of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl warned: “We take for granted our religious freedom, but today it is under substantive while subtle challenge…We are in the midst of a sea change. We are being told that religion has no place in the marketplace, in the public forum.”
We must be vigilant. There are those who would exclude Christians and all believers from the public marketplace of ideas and restrict religious expression to inside a church building or on church owned property.