America’s founders considered religious freedom our country’s “first freedom.” Religious freedom is the freedom to exercise your religion, not the freedom to be hostile toward it.
In Dignitatis Humanae, Pope Paul VI noted that the principle of religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the human person, who has reason and free will, and is therefore able to take responsibility for his or her actions. Religious freedom can be discovered both through reason and divine revelation; it exists to allow people to fulfill their obligation to seek God and must be a civil or constitutional right.
Based on this reality, governments should consider the following principles when formalizing religious freedom into law:
- Do not require what conscience forbids, or forbid what conscience requires
- Religious freedom should be exercised individually and communally, in private and public
- Parents have the right and responsibility to direct the religious upbringing of their children
- Internal affairs of religious organizations are recognized as such, including in the:
- Selection and training of ministers
- Ability to own buildings, money and other property
- Right to teach and witness
- No discrimination based on religion, even if there is an established state religion
- Government should acknowledge religion and show it favor, but should not command or inhibit religious acts
- Right to express religion in the public square
Likewise, religions must acknowledge their limits within a free society:
- Avoid coercion in evangelization
- Exercise with civility and responsibility
- Do not abuse legitimate religious freedom
- Acknowledge “due limits” for a “just public order”
The bishops of Minnesota weigh matters of religious freedom on whether they do or do not violate these principles, and they support public policy that properly preserves it.
APRIL 2012 “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty– A Statement on Religious Liberty” FROM THE USCCB AD HOC COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY