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US bishops see threat to Catholic institutions in lead-up to Religious Freedom Week

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Richard Thornton | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 06/03/21 - updated on 06/03/21

This year's observance comes as Supreme Court due to rule on Philadelphia First Amendment case.

Religious Freedom Week will be observed beginning June 22, the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced Wednesday. This year’s theme is “Solidarity in Freedom.” “Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all,” the USCCB explained in a press release.

The observance this year might very well come on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has implications for religious freedom. The court is expected to deliver a ruling soon in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which began when a foster agency, Catholic Social Services, brought a First Amendment lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, had dropped a contract with the agency, which refuses to certify same-sex couples for adoption, based on Catholic teaching.

The bishops’ conference alludes to the import of the expected ruling when it says in its press release, “Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions with integrity.”

The annual observance of Religious Freedom Week began as Fortnight for Freedom in 2012, when the Church and other religious liberty advocates were expressing concern about threats to the Defense of Marriage Act.

The dates chosen for the week include Church commemorations of several saints who stood up in one way or another for religious freedom: Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22; St. John the Baptist on June 24, and Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29.

The USCCB has prepared resources to “Pray – Reflect – Act,” which may be found at: www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek. Each day focuses on different religious liberty topics of concern for the bishops. These materials were prepared to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.

“The USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty collaborated with the Office of International Justice and Peace to raise awareness and show solidarity with people throughout the world who suffer for their faith, from the persecution of Christians in Nicaragua to highlighting Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq this year,” the conference said. “Through prayer, education, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.”

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Religious Freedom
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