Defending the First Freedom

As we approach Independence Day this year, we have an even greater occasion to reflect on the foundational values that helped form our nation – the self-evident truth that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  Most especially, given the events of this past week, with the challenge to the truth of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the federal government imposing the HHS Mandate, we are called to vigilance with respect to fundamental religious liberties and the right of conscience.

A crucial part of the defense of religious freedom is prayer and seeking the grace of the Spirit, so on this Fourth of July, I invite you to join me at the noon closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom to be held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Last year as I celebrated the closing Mass for the first-ever Fortnight for Freedom, I looked out at the overflow crowd of about 5,000 people at the National Shrine, people of all ages and from all backgrounds and walks of life and from different parts of the country, proud to be Americans and proud to be Catholic.  We celebrated Independence Day by offering prayers of thanks to God for the blessing of our nation’s heritage of religious freedom, and pledged our continued prayers and actions to defend that precious gift of liberty.

Religious freedom is the First Freedom in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.  In cherishing that right, we know that ultimately it is not something granted to us by the state, but rather, it is a right inscribed in our hearts by God who gives us the free will to believe and act according to our conscience.

As people of faith, and as Americans, we must be free to act according to our conscience and serve the common good.  This is the freedom we celebrate on Independence Day and every day, and why we must continue to pray and act in defense of our religious freedom, as Catholics and Americans, proud to be both.

I hope to see you on July 4th.