US Senate: Cardinal McCarrick defends religious freedom of Muslims, Catholics
March 30, 2011
Testifying before a senate judiciary subcommittee hearing on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims,” Cardinal Theodore McCarrick defended the religious freedom of Muslims and Catholics.
Speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the retired archbishop of Washington said that “a justified concern for security and the appropriate pursuit of those who pervert religion to attack others cannot be allowed to turn into a new form of religious discrimination and intolerance. This is why we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in defense of their dignity and rights, just as we welcome and expect their reciprocity and solidarity with us when the rights of Christians and other religious groups are violated around the world.”
Referring to specific incidents of the persecution of Christians at the hands of “Muslim extremists,” Cardinal McCarrick said that
we face a real threat to our national security from terrorism that has its origins in a particular form of extremist ideology that holds itself out as authentic Islam … The legitimate concern for the public order, however, must be pursued with effective skill and respect for religious liberty and with particular concern to avoid generalizing about Islam based solely on the extreme views and conduct of a small group of radical extremists. These unfounded generalizations and efforts to fan the flames of fear are wrong and unjustified, but are especially inappropriate and hurtful when expressed by leaders in public life. These attacks are a grave injustice against the vast majority of Muslims in the United States who are loyal and productive members of our American society.
Cardinal McCarrick also lamented violations of the religious freedom of Catholics, violations that he said stem “from a radical secular perspective that insists that no moral principle or religious belief should ever challenge individual decisions to do or choose whatever one wants or prefers.” The cardinal added:
Acts of bias and discrimination towards Catholics and our beliefs are often expressed very publicly. For example, we are charged with discrimination or called “bigots” when we advocate for the traditional understanding of marriage between one man and one woman, which many religious and non religious traditions have supported throughout human history. We advocate for an authentic vision of marriage not to offend or to treat people unjustly, but to offer a positive and healthy model of the human family, which has served as the foundation of society throughout the ages.
The identity and integrity of our Catholic social institutions-- or indeed those of other religious traditions-- are also being threatened. For example, when the state narrowly defines in legislation which religious institutions are “religious enough” to enjoy religious freedom protections, or when the state imposes restrictions on how religious institutions and individuals are able to serve those in need, the ability to exercise religious freedom in an effective and authentic manner is greatly undermined.
When the very right of conscience is attacked, the ability to exercise religious beliefs is subverted. There are well known contemporary examples where the state would force religious groups and individuals to choose between following their religious beliefs and practices and following the dictates of law.