DAY 10: Equal Rights to Religious Liberty
Finally, government is to see to it that the equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common welfare, is never violated for religious reasons whether openly or covertly. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.
It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders men from joining or leaving a religious body. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations, when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a specific community. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965
Reflection for Day Ten
Because all human beings possess equal dignity, value, and worth, the government is to ensure that this equality is maintained both for the good of the individual and for the good of society as a whole. This equality specifically should not be violated on religious grounds. Each religious body and the members of that body have equal rights to religious liberty. This equality demands that there be no discrimination based upon one’s religious beliefs.
The Council Fathers now stress that, based upon this equality among its citizens, no government is permitted to impose in any way “the profession or repudiation of any religion.” Such an imposition is a violation of the right to be true to one’s conscience. Because of the freedom of conscience, the government is also not permitted to deny a person the right to join or leave a religious body. The government has no right to stipulate what a person can or cannot believe.
If the above is true, then the Council states that it is all the more wrong when “force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion.” This not only applies to governments but also to religious bodies themselves. No religious body is permitted to harass or seek to eliminate another religious group.
Within our contemporary world, where is religious equality denied or religious discrimination tolerated? Are there instances where one religion violates the rights of other religions?
Let us pray:
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.
Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven, Day Eight, Day Nine
For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website