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Bishop warns Congress: religious freedom eroding

October 27, 2011

The American Catholic bishops are gravely troubled by assaults of religious liberty, a spokesman for the US bishops’ conference has told a Congressional committee.

Speaking on October 26 to a constitutional subcommittee of the House Judiciary committee, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport said:

In the recent past, the bishops of the United States have watched with increasing alarm as this great national legacy of religious liberty, so profoundly in harmony with our own teachings, has been subject to ever more frequent assault and ever more rapid erosion.

Bishop Lori—who was recently appointed chairman of a committee on religious liberty created by the US bishops’ conference—cited several examples of recent government moves to restrict religious freedom: the mandate to include contraceptive coverage in health-insurance programs; the denial of government grants to Catholic agencies that do not provide abortion services or participate in condom distribution; the administration’s drive to end resistance against same-sex marriage.

Bishop Lori expressed acute concern about statements by government officials suggesting that any opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry. “If the label of ‘bigot’ sticks to our Church and many other churches,” he warned, “the result will be church-state conflicts for many years to come.”

The bishop reminded Congress that religious freedom is based on fundamental human rights, which are prior to the authority of the state. He noted, too, that religious liberty is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Thus, he said, religious freedom “is commonly, and with justice, called our ‘First Freedom.’”


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  • Posted by: FredC - Oct. 28, 2011 2:15 PM ET USA

    Because there is no "Catholic vote", a bishop's letter is no more than an individual citizen's letter. The bishops will have no influence until they energize the laity and the laity starts writing.

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Oct. 28, 2011 2:22 AM ET USA

    In noting that Bishop Lori is, of course, correct, I am struck by the irony of the erosion of religious liberty in the United States while Obama sends an "ambassador-at-large for religious freedom" to Assisi. Give us a break.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Oct. 27, 2011 5:48 PM ET USA

    A bit too little too late! Closing the barn doors after the horses have gotten out!