Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thank God for the First Amendment!

While you're getting prepared for the annual 4th of July festivities, you might spend a little time on your knees praying the Litany for Liberty, one of the prayer resources being offered by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for The Fortnight for Freedom. They also offer another prayer that's being printed on the back of prayer cards, the front of which will have a picture of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. The same prayer is also offered on the back of cards bearing Our Lady of Guadalupe (Patroness of the Americas and of the unborn) and St. Thomas More (Patron of Religious Freedom).

As I've written before, the point of the First Amendment is to protect the right of the people to have a voice in their governance. That's why we find the "establishment clause" paired with the "free exercise clause", and why we find them included with the rights of speech, the press, peacable assembly and petition. Just now, though, we find the freedom of religion threatened both directly and indirectly — directly through enforcement of the HHS mandate, indirectly by a possible declaration by SCOTUS that neither Congress nor the several states may defend marriage as an essentially heterosexual institution.

Government officials and their ideological confederates in the commentariat have been slower to grasp that people in a free society should not be forced to choose between transcendent obligations and the privileges of citizenship. Indeed, one pundit recently ridiculed vigorous defenders of religious freedom as “alarmist” and “Cassandra-like” for insisting that current threats to the first of American freedoms are real and serious. He apparently forgot that Cassandra correctly foretold the destruction of Troy. The problem was that no one believed her.
—Prof. Mary Ann Glendon

In the article cited above, Prof. Glendon quotes South African Justice Albie Sachs: "Freedom of religion goes beyond protecting the inviolability of the individual conscience; religious belief has the capacity to awaken concepts of self-worth and human dignity which form the cornerstone of human rights." This country was first colonized by people seeking the freedom not only to worship but also to build and order society according to their consciences. Thomas Jefferson declared that unalienable rights had been given to humans "by their Creator" because they could not be found in Nature; the concept of human rights arose in a culture formed and informed by a religious heritage that posited a benign, loving God. By contrast, the twentieth century has given us plenty of examples of totalitarian governments who began their tyrannies by oppressing churches and synagogues, whose leaders denied any intrinsic value to human life even as they sneered at religion as "the opiate of the masses".

I say again, America was colonized and founded as a haven of religious liberty; without religious liberty, political liberty suffers. So this Independence Day thank God for the First Amendment ... even if you don't believe in God. Because, without freedom of religion, you would have no "right" to be irreligious.