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John Burger - published on 07/10/14


the story and added: “Pierce has previously spoken of how his faith has been "good" to him during tough times. He said: "It always helps to have a bit of prayer in your back pocket. At the end of the day, you have to have something and for me that is God, Jesus, my Catholic upbringing, my faith… God has been good to me. My faith has been good to me in the moments of deepest suffering, doubt and fear. It is a constant, the language of prayer."

The New York Times also ran an interesting op-ed piece this week in which Nicholas Kristof cited overwhelming evidence of religious intolerance in the Islamic world. Meriam Ibrahim, ISIS imposing a special tax on Christians, a Malaysia court forbidding a Catholic newspaper to use the word Allah, and on and on.

“In country after country, Islamic fundamentalists are measuring their own religious devotion by the degree to which they suppress or assault those they see as heretics,” Kristof wrote.

He acknowledged that it’s an issue that many are reluctant to discuss, but that it should be talked about openly.

Kristof has a personal interest in the story. He said that a friend of his, a Muslim human rights lawyer in Pakistan, had been murdered recently after agreeing to defend someone falsely accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

In our own country, squabbles over religious freedom continue to make news. Last October, during the shutdown of the federal government over a budget dispute in Congress, Father Ray Leonard was ordered to stop performing all of his duties as the Catholic Chaplain at King’s Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, even on a voluntary basis. He was also told that he could be arrested if he violated that order.

Father Leonard was locked out of his base office and the chapel and denied access to the Eucharist. The order caused the cancellation of daily and weekend Mass, confession, marriage preparation classes and baptisms and prevented Father Leonard from providing spiritual guidance to the Catholics in his care.

The services of other Christian denominations at Kings Bay were allowed to continue throughout the shutdown. Only Catholics were left without services.

So Father Leonard sued.

A day later, the Department of Justice told him he could resume his duties as chaplain.

Now, however, Father Leonard is charging that the government is retaliating against him for his lawsuit.

“The retaliation involves repeated government assertions that the employment contract under which Father Leonard was working is no longer ‘valid,’ demands that he must sign a new contract containing several pages of onerous new terms if he wants to be paid and refusals to pay for services he had already performed,” says the Thomas More Law Center, which is helping him.

Father Leonard, who spent time in China ministering to impoverished Tibetans, said in an affidavit: “In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China. I never imagined that when I returned home to the United States, that I would be forbidden from practicing my religious beliefs as I am called to do, and would be forbidden from helping and serving my faith community.”

John Burger is news editor of Aleteia’s English edition.

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Tags:
ContraceptionIslamPope Benedict XVIPope FrancisReligious Freedom
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