May 29, 2012

18 ways to defend religious liberty

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

Last May 21, 43 Catholic institutions including the Archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame filed suit in federal courts in defense of their right to both profess and exercise their religious faith.

The HHS contraceptive mandate is the cause of the suit, but contraception is not the question. At issue is the Administration’s attempted redefinition of religious ministry to include only what takes place within the walls of a house of worship. As Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington argues, by the Administration’s definition, Mother Teresa’s ministrations to the poor of Calcutta wouldn’t qualify as religious activity!

Unfortunately the contraceptive mandate is only one of numerous ways in which the robust freedom to exercise our religion -- the freedom not only to go to Church, but also to say what we believe in public and act on it freely—is being gradually shriveled into an anemic “freedom of worship” at the national, state and local levels.

To reinvigorate our national understanding of all that religious liberty entails, the bishops are calling for a “Fortnight for Freedom.”  Between June 22 –the feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, martyrs for their faith—and July 4th, Independence Day, all Catholics and people of good will are asked to gather “all the energies they can muster” to pray, fast, educate and demonstrate in defense of “our first, most cherished liberty.”

Here are 18 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 on religious liberty at the USCCB site too.)

2. Spread the word: order and distribute this (or a similar) pamphlet on religious liberty.

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.”

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

5. Go see For Greater Glory, a film with a strong theme of religious liberty. Discuss it with friends and family.

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.

7. Encourage your pastor to preach about religious liberty – he might not have seen the bishops’ request.

8. Organize a period of nocturnal adoration, a holy hour or rosary, or a special mass for religious liberty in your parish. 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.

Take a Stand

11. Participate in the nationwide Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally June 8th at noon in your time zone. Find locations here.

12. Attend any diocesan special events during the Fortnight for Freedom.  For example, Archbishop Lori of Baltimore will celebrate a kick-off Mass, Cardinal O’Malley of Boston is hosting a live town hall, St. Louis is kicking off a 6-month campaign for religious liberty.

13. Sponsor and publish a statement of mutual support among local churches, synagogues and mosques – pledging that you support each other’s right to demonstrate in public and to run religious ministries in accord with faith.

14. Write your Congressmen and write letters to the editor to insist the erosion of religious liberty must stop – beginning with the unjust HHS regulations.

Use It Or Lose It!

15. Organize or participate in a Eucharistic Procession for Corpus Christi June 10th.

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

17. 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.

18. 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.

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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