He said the bishops would continue to work for “a more permanent solution” to the ethical challenges posed by the contraception mandate.
“We’ll also see more challenges to our religious liberty,” Lori told CNA. “We’ll continue seeking a more robust understanding and implementation of RFRA laws.”
RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is a federal statute limiting the government’s ability to “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion. Since being signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, 21 states have enacted similar provisions.
Lori told CNA that “in addition to the various challenges we face on religious liberty at the federal and local levels, the biggest thing we need to do is effectively catechize, evangelize, and teach about religious freedom. That is job number one” for the bishops’ religious liberty committee, he explained.
“On the one hand, we face specific legal challenges,” he said. “On the other hand, we face a society losing sight of the beauty, goodness, and dignity of religious liberty.”
The archbishop said that Americans risk “frittering away” freedom of religion if they do not actively work to protect it.
“Will we have a just society without protecting religious liberty,” he asked.
In June, the U.S. bishops voted to permanently establish the religious liberty committee within the structure of the bishops’ conference. It had previously been an ad hoc committee, which, by conference rules, could only remain active over a defined period of time.
“The bishops recognized that is important for us to teach, catechize, and address these issues,” Lori said. “I was very gratified by that decision.”
Lori also said that domestic religious liberty challenges should raise awareness of religious persecution around the world.
“It’s said that nearly 70 percent of the world’s population lives under some restriction of their religious freedom. That ought to be sobering for us in the West,” he said.
“We need to be in great solidarity of prayer with those suffering religious persecution,” he said, adding hope that American Catholics would support initiatives promoting religious liberty internationally.
(Story continues below)
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The archbishop explained that protecting religious liberty domestically could itself have global effect. “By protecting our freedom, and keeping the flame of freedom burning brightly, we serve as a sign of hope” for persecuted religious believers around the globe, he said.