Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2011 / 11:31 am
American inaction and complacency towards promoting religious freedom keeps the United States from exporting one of its “greatest qualities” and hinders an “honest discussion” on the relationship between Islam and democratic assumptions, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said March 1.
“We need to insist that religious freedom – a person’s right to freely worship, preach, teach and practice what he or she believes, including the right to freely change or end one’s religious beliefs under the protection of the law – is a foundation stone of human dignity,” he commented. “No one, whether acting in the name of God or in the name of some political agenda or ideology, has the authority to interfere with that basic human right.”
The Archbishop of Denver, who served from 2003-2006 as a commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, delivered his remarks in a March 1 keynote speech at a Georgetown University conference sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. His talk addressed whether the role of religion in American politics and society is a model for other countries.
The United States has a history as a place of refuge for victims of religious persecution, the archbishop noted. At the same time, “(r)ight now in America, we’re not acting like we revere that legacy, or want to share it, or even really understand it. And I think we may awake one day to see that as a tragedy for ourselves, and too many others to count.”
The archbishop, drawing on his experience as a religious freedom commissioner, voiced concern that Christian minorities in Africa and Asia bear the brunt of religious violence.