The Corner

Eternal Vigilance for Religious Liberty

Church bells were ringing across America at noon on this Independence Day, marking the conclusion of the Fortnight for Freedom to raise awareness of the blessings of and threats to religious freedom.  But our work has barely begun.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William E. Lori, and many others have explained in detail the threats to religious liberty — our first freedom — in this country and around the world.

The Supreme Court’s decision on the health overhaul law last Thursday did not touch the controversial anti-conscience mandate that is a direct assault on the freedom of religious organizations to provide health coverage that comports with their beliefs, so those battles must continue.

Forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations across the country have announced lawsuits against the federal government to challenge the Obama administration’s mandate that religious organizations, such as Catholic charities and hospitals, must provide health plans that provide free access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg suggested in her concurrence/dissent with the health-law decision that the challenges may have a favorable hearing when they reach the high court:  “A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example, the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion, or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.”

It is outrageous that the bishops must go to federal court to protect the constitutionally protected first freedom, but our country’s history abounds with examples of the need for eternal vigilance.

A quote by President Andrew Jackson in his farewell address on March 4, 1837 could not be more relevant to our times:  “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.”

Let’s hope that at the next Independence Day, we will be celebrating a new birth of freedom as the American people rise up in defense of our cherished liberty.

Across from St. Mary’s Church, Alexandria, Va., at noon today.

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