By Lisa Zengarini
The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty has reiterated that the right to religious freedom is "rooted in the dignity of the human person", noting, however, that today the United States are “driven by political and cultural factionalism, where competing groups seek not truth but rather mere power”. In a statement for Religious Freedom Day, which the Country celebrated on January 16, Cardinal Timothy Dolan lamented that: “Appeals to objective truth are treated as attempts to oppress” and that “narrative and spin” are used “as weapons of choice”.
“Recent popes rejected this cynical view”, Cardinal Dolan pointed out. He quoted the recent Encyclical, Fratelli tutti, in which Pope Francis stresses that: “If society is to have a future, it must respect the truth of our human dignity and submit to that truth”, and that: “In a pluralistic society, dialogue is the best way to realize what ought always to be affirmed and respected apart from any ephemeral consensus”.
US legacy of religious liberty for all
According to Cardinal Dolan, religious freedom opens up space for this dialogue “by allowing communities to live in accordance with their convictions and thus contribute to the larger society”. “When that space for dialogue is constricted, the broader society suffers”, the prelate emphasized, expressing hope that American Catholics and all people of good will commit themselves to nurturing the country’s "great legacy of religious liberty for all".
Religious Freedom Day
Religious Freedom Day was established in the US in 1993 to commemorate the passing of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16 1786, which was the first historical attempt in the new nation to remove the State’s influence from religious affairs and was the driving force behind the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, preventing governments from making laws which regulate the establishment of religion or that would prohibit the free exercise of religion. In recent years US bishops have regularly voiced their concern for religious freedom and of conscience in the Country regarding laws on life and other moral issues, including the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, known as Obamacare.