Let Freedom Ring!


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ABSTRACTLet Freedom Ring! | Daily News | NCRegister.com Print Edition:  May 20, 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 Let Freedom Ring! (726) Archbishop Lori delivers address on the challenge to religious liberty the nation now faces and what is being done in response. Share by ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM LORI 05/24/2012 Comment Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, delivered the keynote address at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s National Religious Freedom Gala Reception and Award Dinner in Washington May 24. The Register obtained a copy of the address.   It has now been just over a week since I became the archbishop of Baltimore, and I find myself surrounded by history there. I live near the Basilica of the Assumption, the oldest cathedral in the U.S. The cornerstone was laid in 1806. The nation’s first bishop, John Carroll, is buried beneath the basilica, as are many of my predecessors. John Carroll was a cousin of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Carroll’s story — and indeed Maryland’s early history — teaches us about the fragility of religious liberty and the importance of exercising vigilance in protecting it. Maryland was founded in the mid-17th century by the Catholic Lord Baltimore as a society where people of different faiths could live together peacefully. This vision was soon codified in Maryland’s 1649 Act Concerning Religion (also called the “Toleration Act”), which was the first law in our nation’s history to protect an individual’s right to freedom of conscience. Maryland’s experiment in religious toleration, however, ended within a few decades. Around the turn of the 18th century, the colony was placed under royal control, and the Church of England became the established religion. Discriminatory laws, including the loss of political rights, were enacted against those who refused to conform. Catholic chapels were closed, and Catholics were restricted to practicing their faith in their homes. The Catholic community lived under these conditions until the American Revolution. Both Charles Carroll and his father, although wealthy landowners, were barred from active participation in politics because of their Roman Catholic faith. Despite this legal restriction, in the early 1770s, Charles Carroll became a powerful voice for independence from British rule. He eventually was elected to represent the colony of Maryland in various committees and was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776. Carroll then signed the Declaration of Independence and was the only Catholic to do so. Just a few years later, our Founding Fathers included protection of the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment to our Constitution. In reflecting on his time in the Constitutional Convention, George Washington stated in 1789: “If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it” [Letter to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, 1789]. Washington went on to state, “[I]f I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution” [Ibid.]. Twenty years later, in 1809, another of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, emphasized the value of freedom of conscience when he stated that “no provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority” [Letter to New London Methodist, 1809].   Current Challenges Thus, we can be confident that our Founding Fathers understood the foundational value of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. But today, we are reminded of the lesson of Maryland’s early history and the story of Charles Carroll, because that value is under attack, and it .......