US Catholic group urges all faiths to fight for religious freedom

Members from the group Catholic Advocate are launching a nationwide campaign inviting people from every faith to mobilize for the protection of religious liberty in the U.S.

“No other president in American history has so blatantly chipped away at our religious liberties,” group vice president Matt Smith said in an Oct. 27 statement.

Smith cited the current administration's refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing taxpayer dollars to go towards abortion providing organizations like Planned Parenthood, and lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research as among several examples.

He also pointed to the governments decision to strip “conscience protections for health care workers, and refusing to meet with or respond to our Catholic Bishops’ concerns.”

“This isn't just a Catholic issue,” Smith added, “it's a religious liberty issue that affects all Americans of faith.”

The campaign includes a web video titled “Common Ground” and a petition calling on President Obama to enact the promises he made during a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in 2009.

“In this televised address, he spoke of the importance of cooperation and seeking the common good on decisive issues like abortion, saying: ‘When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do—that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground,'” Catholic Advocate president Deal Hudson said, recalling the president's speech. 

“But without action, words are just words.”

The campaign comes as several U.S. bishops have recently issued strong words on the topic, including the bishop conference's top advocate for religious liberty, who recently urged Congress to protect the right to religious freedom in America.

“Religious liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy,” Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said in his Oct. 26 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution.

“Not coincidentally, religious liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation’s most cherished and fundamental freedoms,” he said.

Bishop Lori was named as the first chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty on Sept. 29, 2011.

The new committee was announced by bishops' conference president Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York last month, who said the group was born out of the bishops unanimous concern over the recent attacks on religious freedom.

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