‘Threats Against Religious Freedom In Our Country . . .’

by Peter Kirsanow

. . . are regularly downplayed by many in academia, the elite media and the political class. But to a number of witnesses in last week’s hearing on religious freedom before the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights, the threats are real and immediate. Nonetheless, their voices, and those of concerned individuals and institutions that submitted comments to the commission, are often ridiculed, ignored, or cast as expressions of bigotry.

It’s usually difficult to ignore, however, the voice of Archbishop Charles Chaput. Just one excerpt from the comments he submitted to the commission:

Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary or overstated. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious and real. Last year religious liberty advocates won a significant and appropriate Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC decision. But what was stunning even to the Justices in that case was the disregard for traditional constitutional understandings of religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school.

Hosanna- Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate, which violates the religious identity and mission of many religiously affiliated or inspired public ministries; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers, private employers and individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

Why is this hostility happening? I believe much of it links to Catholic and other religious teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

This understanding of the human person is the grounding of the entire American experiment. If human nature is not much more than modeling clay, and no permanent human nature exists by the hand of the Creator, then natural, unalienable rights can’t exist. And no human “rights” can finally claim priority over the interests of the state.

The commission will continue to receive comments on religious freedom from members of the public until April 21. They may be emailed to [email protected].

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