Religious Freedom

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Religious Freedom

“We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should not mean having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary.” - USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty (March 2012).

Religious freedom (or religious liberty) is a fundamental human right rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person. Fundamental rights are not granted by government, nor can they ever be taken away by them; if they are taken away, it is an act of grave injustice. Instead, fundamental rights flow from God and the dignity He bestows on the human person, and governments are called to protect them. Since the human person’s quest for the meaning of his or her life and relationship with the Creator is the most important and intimate undertaking in human experience, each person must be allowed the necessary freedom to go about it according to conscience and without governmental interference or coercion. This protection applies both to individual persons and to organizations.

The right to religious liberty is not only a central right in the teaching of the Catholic Church, but it is also a central right in the United States rooted in the very foundations of American and New Hampshire history. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution begins with the protection that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The right to religious liberty is numbered before all other rights, indicating its primacy in the minds of our nation’s Founders. Moreover, Article 5 of the New Hampshire State Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides that “Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason. . . .”

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Religious Freedom Week

During the period from June 22 to June 29, beginning with the Feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrates Religious Freedom Week. In the midst of our current challenges, join us as we seek the kingdom and find Strength in Hope.

Get ideas on how to observe Religious Freedom Week in your parish or community.

Resources

How to Talk About Religious Liberty

Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom or Dignitatis humanae (December 7, 1965) | En español

Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2104-2109 | En español

USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty (March 2012) | En español

USCCB, How to . . . Talk About Religious Liberty

More from the USCCB on Religious Liberty

First Amendment, United States Constitution’s “Bill of Rights” 

Article 5, New Hampshire State Constitution’s “Bill of Rights”  

Testimony

HB 1653 Conscience Protections for Healthcare Workers - February 1, 2012 

HB 1330 Free Exercise of Religion - January 19, 2010 

HCR 26 Affirming State's Religious Heritage - January 19, 2010