June 23, 2014

21 ways to defend religious liberty

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

The 3rd annual Fortnight for Freedom – two weeks of prayer, fasting and demonstration in defense of the fullness of First Amendment freedoms—kicked off June 21st with an opening Mass celebrated in Baltimore by Archbishop Lori. It will close July 4th with a noon Mass celebrated in Washington, DC by Cardinal Wuerl.

In the intervening days, our bishops invite faithful Catholics and all people of good will to fast, pray, educate themselves and exercise their religious liberty as a way of reinvigorating our national understanding of all that liberty entails.

Be it the wholesale slaughter of Christians in hotspots across the globe or the shrinking of the right to free exercise of religion to an anemic “freedom of worship” taking place in our own country, religious liberty and its attendant freedoms of assembly, free speech, and freedom from government interference in Church matters is under attack.

Here, updated from the first Fortnight for Freedom, are 21 ideas—some pious, some civic, some basic, some fun—for defending religious liberty and engendering “a new birth of freedom.”

Educate Yourself

1. Read “Our first, most cherished freedom” from the USCCB to understand all the ways religious liberty is threatened and how it can be defended. (There are other resources available at the USCCB site too, including fact sheets and documentation of unjust discrimination against Catholics and other Christians in the U.S. and internationally.)

2. Keep up with the status of religious liberty in our courts. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom are two law firms handling many of the religious liberty lawsuits wending their way through the American court system. Both organizations have worthwhile resources for understanding how religious liberty is threatened and what you can do about it.

3. Basic Civics has been as neglected as basic Catechesis in recent decades.  Educate yourself on the meaning of our founding documents through Hillsdale College’s free online lecture series, “Constitution 101” and “Constitution 201”

4. Invite an expert to address your parish or civic group on the full meaning of religious liberty and how to defend it.

5. Use the USCCB’s daily reflections on religious liberty (a study guide on the Vatican II document on religious liberty) for your own edification.

Pray & Fast

6. Commit to praying the Prayer to Our Lady for Religious Liberty and sacrificing in some way for this intention during the Fortnight for Freedom. Invite others to join you. (The prayer is also available in Spanish and other languages at the USCCB site.)

7. Encourage your pastor to preach about religious liberty. Pastors get busy and miss messages from their chancery offices. He will probably be grateful for the reminder.

8. Organize a period of nocturnal adoration, a holy hour or rosary, or a special mass for religious liberty in your parish. If you need a suggested format, try this. Perhaps conclude with the Litany for Liberty.

9. Organize a chaplet of Divine Mercy or Rosary for the country after daily mass every day during the Fortnight.

10. Sponsor an interfaith prayer service for the flourishing of religious liberty.

11.  Undertake a simple fast or offer up another sacrifice of your own choosing for the intention of the restoration of respect for human dignity in all its fullness. 

Take a Stand

12. Spread the word: “like” the Facebook page and share links and messages from groups such as Women Speak for Themselves and Call To Prayer, which promote religious liberty and suggest simple, effective ways to be involved. Talk to your friends about what you learn and use social media to inform others. 

13. If you’re a woman, read and sign the open letter to the President on religious liberty from Women Speak for Themselves.

14. Participate in your diocese’s special events for Fortnight for Freedom, many of which are linked here by Diocese, but check your parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers too.

15. Write your Congressmen and write letters to the editor to insist the erosion of the free exercise of religion must stop. 

Use It Or Lose It!

16. Friday, June 27th is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the next day is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Observe these beautiful feasts! Maybe go to an extra daily mass or two during the Fortnight: to pray, but also just because you can. Offer it for those whose public prayer would get them killed.

17. Wear a cross or crucifix as a public manifestation that you are a Christian.

18. Don’t be ashamed to make the sign of the cross and say grace before meals in restaurants and other public spaces. It’s just being who you are.

19. Volunteer at a religious-based charity. We don’t serve others because THEY are Catholic. We serve them because WE are Catholic.

20. Enjoy a Fortnight for Freedom film fest. Film critic Steven D. Greydanus has a list of films illustrating religious liberty tied to the saints and feast days of the two week period.

21. Actually celebrate July 4th and the liberty it implies.  Attend a parade, go to the fireworks, stage a public reading of the Declaration. Honor it as an important day and take part in some form of civic celebration. As Pope Francis says, it’s important to build a “culture of Encounter”, and it’s good occasionally to connect with fellow citizens and remember that we like and are liked by our fellow Americans!

Rebecca Ryskind Teti is Operations Coordinator for the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the Busch School of Business & Economics at CUA, though the opinions are her own. This column is modified from an earlier version that first appeared in Faith & Family  magazine.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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