Society

Bishop counters feds’ claim that ‘religious freedom’ is code for discrimination

Chairman of bishops' religious liberty committee calls comments "reckless"

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The idea of equality is incomprehensible apart from faith, but an Obama administration official overseeing civil rights protections seeks to cut off the religious values that inform that idea, says Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.

Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, responded to a statement issued last week by the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights upon the issuance of its report on “Peaceful Coexistence.” The report sought to reconcile non-discrimination principles with religious liberties.

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any form of intolerance,” said commission chairman Martin R. Castro.

In a statement issued Tuesday, “Faith and the Full Promise of America,” Archbishop Lori called the chairman’s remarks “reckless.”

“For the current Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, religious liberty is reduced to ‘nothing except hypocrisy,’ and religion is being used as a ‘weapon… by those seeking to deny others equality,'” the archbishop said. “He makes the shocking suggestion that Catholic, evangelical, orthodox Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim communities are comparable to fringe segregationists from the civil rights era. These statements painting those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry are reckless and reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work.”

Archbishop Lori said that people of faith have “often been the ones to carry the full promise of America to the most forgotten peripheries when other segments of society judged it too costly.” He cited the involvement of religious leaders such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Father Theodore Hesburgh, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in “the most powerful marches of the civil rights era.”

“In places like St. Louis, Catholic schools were integrated seven years before the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education,” he said.

“We have long taught that the one God, maker of heaven and earth, calls each and every individual into being, loves every individual, and commands believers to love and show mercy to every individual,” the archbishop pointed out. “The idea of equality, which the Chairman treats as a kind of talisman, is incomprehensible apart from the very faith that he seeks to cut off from mainstream society.”

 

Shawn Neal

John Burger

John Burger is a news editor at Aleteia. He formerly worked at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York in the Archdiocese of New York. He has also written for a wide variety of Catholic publications.