June 19, 2015

Bear witness to faith during Fortnight for Freedom

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Most Rev. Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.As we approach Independence Day, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops again is calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 through July 4 to remind all Americans about the importance of religious freedom. Sadly, in the four years since the U.S. Catholic Church has observed this two-week period of prayer and action, challenges to religious freedom have increased.

The passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana earlier this year ignited a national firestorm that highlighted how misunderstood the concept of religious freedom has become. Changes made to the original RFRA bill in our state have only created greater confusion regarding religious liberty rather than clarifying the issue.

A fundamental freedom that has characterized our nation—the right of citizens to worship freely and live in harmony with their religious beliefs—is lampooned and dismissed by powerful interest groups.

Freedom of religion is not simply permission to worship in a church, synagogue or mosque. The founders of our nation called for the law to recognize that citizens possess a God-given dignity and, hence, God-given rights. Without the liberty to live our faith publicly and follow the dictates of our conscience, we are not truly free. This liberty is particularly crucial for us, since, as Catholic Christians, we are called to go forth and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Fortnight for Freedom 2015 logoThe theme for this year’s Fortnight for Freedom is “Freedom to Bear Witness.” We bear witness to God’s love as individuals and believing communities, as well as through Catholic institutions that respect the dignity of the human person.

We are not motivated by a vague altruism. Rather, our lives and the life of the Church are efforts to respond in love to God who loved us first. We do this by caring for the needy, feeding the hungry and offering shelter to the homeless. We provide loving care and emotional support for women going through crisis pregnancies. We educate children in our poorest neighborhoods. We visit the imprisoned.

The list goes on and on, and we carry out all these services without any pretense of proselytism. In fact, most of the people we serve are not Catholic. Such disinterested service should leave little doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order!

In a pluralistic society, there always will be tension between the rights of the individual and the common good, but for democracy to flourish, each generation must be committed to a civil dialogue concerning these key issues. We will oppose any laws that would promote discrimination, but we also expect that our right to religious freedom will be protected.

Our nation faces several critical issues, such as an attempt to redefine marriage and a federal mandate that would force employers to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of the moral or religious objections on the part of the employers.

The Fortnight for Freedom is an opportunity once again to say no to any coercion to privatize religious faith. It is not enough to be grateful for the religious freedom Americans have enjoyed since the foundation of the nation. We must actively work to ensure that religious liberty is protected by the rule of law.

First, I encourage everyone to pray that everything we do be directed toward God’s will, and that we live our lives in response to the love that God has shown each of us.

Second, I encourage you to educate yourself about the threat to religious freedom and what you can do about it. You can find a wealth of information on the archdiocesan website at www.archindy.org/religiousfreedom.

During this upcoming Fortnight for Freedom, let us remember that religious freedom isn’t a concession or accommodation by the state. Our birthright as children of God includes the freedom to profess our religion in private and public.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Indianapolis


Related story: Fortnight for Freedom rally set for June 27 at Indiana State House

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