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God Values Religious Freedom — Do We?


JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND

Source:
Nat. Cath. Register
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
3/9/2012

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ABSTRACTGod Values Religious Freedom — Do We? | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  April 8, 2012   Donate Archives Blogs Store Resources Advertise Jobs Radio Subscribe Make This My Homepage Resources Christmas Music Arts & Entertainment Books Commentary Culture of Life Education In Person News Opinion Sunday Guides Travel Vatican Dan Burke Edward Pentin Mark Shea Matthew Warner Jimmy Akin Matt & Pat Archbold Simcha Fisher Tito Edwards Jennifer Fulwiler Steven D. Greydanus Tim Drake Tom Wehner Our Latest Show About the Show About the Register Donate Subscribe Stations Schedule Other EWTN Shows Advertising Overview Editorial Calendar Order Web Ad Order Print Ad Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us Daily News Daily News God Values Religious Freedom — Do We? (3241) As religious liberty loses ground at home and abroad, scholars rally support for an embattled freedom. Share by JOAN FRAWLEY DESMOND 03/09/2012 Comments (12) WASHINGTON — When the Berlin Wall fell, Church leaders anticipated a new springtime for religious liberty. But this fundamental right is under attack at home and abroad, prompting a slew of scholarly initiatives designed to educate the public and build support for the “first freedom.” This month, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an 18-year ecumenical initiative designed to identify common theological beliefs and forge joint public witness, published “In Defense of Religious Freedom” in the March issue of First Things , the influential journal of religion and public affairs. Meanwhile, academic forums like the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University draw scholars, policymakers and journalists to high-level debates on a range of topics, from President Barack Obama’s contraception mandate to the plight of religious minorities in the wake of the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings. “In the West, certain religious beliefs are now regarded as bigoted. Pastors are under threat, both cultural and legal, for preaching biblical truth. Christian social service and charitable agencies are forced to cease cooperation with the state because they will not bend their work to what Pope Benedict XVI has called the ‘dictatorship of relativism,’” noted the statement “In Defense of Religious Freedom.” While persecution of religious minorities abroad has received increasing attention, the statement’s authors suggest that intolerance of faith-inspired public activity in the West is more accepted — at least in elite circles. Today, March 9, The New York Times published a full-page advertisement paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that attacked the Catholic Church for a host of social and economic problems across the globe. “Proponents of human rights, including governments, have begun to define religious freedom down, reducing it to a bare ‘freedom of worship.’ This reduction denies the inherently public character of biblical religion and privatizes the very idea of religious freedom, a view of freedom such as one finds in those repressive states where Christians can pray only so long as they do so behind closed doors.” “It is no exaggeration to see in these developments a movement to drive religious belief, and especially orthodox Christian religious and moral convictions, out of public life,” the statement charges. ‘Made in the Image of God’ Evangelicals and Catholics Together is an ecumenical fellowship established by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, the founding editor of First Things , and Charles “Chuck” Colson, the Watergate figure and Christian convert who founded Prison Ministries, a nationwide outreach program to prison inmates. “In Defense of Religious Freedom” provides relatively brief but powerful reflections on the biblical basis for religious freedom, backed up with doctrinal statements from the Catholic Church and evangelical organizations. “In Genesis 1:26, the Bible teaches us that only human beings are made ‘in the image of God.’ No one bears this image ( imago Dei ) more than others; no one has the right to assert that by reason of race, tribe, ethnicity, class or sex his imaging of God is superior to another,” reads the statement. “In a world of manifest and innumerable inequalities, this radical equality of all men and women before God is the bond that allows us to speak meaningfully of a human family, a human race, in which we share mutual obligations — including the obligation to recognize and honor that sanctuary of conscience in which each person can meet the divine source of life. “Any power, be it cultural or political, that puts unwarranted impediments in the path of the human quest for truth, which culminates in the human quest for God, is violating the order of creation.” Indeed,.......