By Celine Klosterman
The Davenport Diocese is encouraging parishes and individual Catholics to participate in the U.S. bishops’ second annual Fortnight For Freedom, a June 21 to July 4 campaign for religious liberty.
Churches are receiving 14 reflections — one for each day of the fortnight — from the diocesan social action office for potential use in small-group studies. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops produced the reflections, which include discussion questions and excerpts from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, “Dignitatis Humanae.”
Parishes also are receiving a copy of an open letter to Americans signed by 25 representatives of various Christian churches, women’s religious communities and an Islamic group. The letter protests the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that “religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs.”
The narrow definition of religious organizations and lack of conscience protections in the mandate threaten not only the Catholic faith, but erode a constitutional freedom that affects all faiths, Glenn Leach said. A volunteer in the diocese’s social action department, he hopes the fortnight will “get people to think about how easily religious freedom slips away if we don’t contact our legislators and demand that it be preserved.”
Besides the HHS mandate, the U.S. bishops’ website, www.usccb.org, lists threats to religious freedom regarding issues such as:
• “Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services — by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both — because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.”
• “State immigration laws. Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as ‘harboring’ of undocumented immigrants — and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.”
• “Christian students on campus. In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.”
• “Forcing religious groups to host same-sex ‘marriage’ or civil union ceremonies. A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a ‘civil union’ ceremony on its private property. Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex ‘marriage’ ceremony.”
Religious liberty involves much more than choosing a building in which to worship on Sundays, Leach said. “You don’t practice your faith only in a church. You practice it by the way you live.”
During last year’s Fortnight For Freedom, parishes in the diocese offered holy hours, DVD presentations, communal praying of the rosary and floats in city parades. Rallies for religious freedom also have taken place in the past year.
For educational materials or more information on the campaign, visit www.fortnight4freedom.org.