This week’s column is brief. But the subject matter warrants all our attention.
Again this June, our nation’s bishops have asked Catholics across the country to observe a “Fortnight for Freedom.” The theme this year is “Freedom to Serve.” It highlights the many Catholic social and charitable ministries that serve the poor, the homeless and other vulnerable groups in our country, but that now face growing government interference. Details on the Fortnight will be made available throughout the archdiocese in the coming weeks.
Americans tend to take their religious liberty for granted. Religious freedom in the Founders’ sense was, and remains, far more robust than a mere “freedom to worship.” That makes sense because religious believers played a key role in founding and building the United States, and for Christians, faith is always personal but never private. Faith requires public engagement and expression – not just by individuals, but by communities as well.
This year’s Fortnight for Freedom has special urgency because the U.S. Supreme Court will likely rule on cases involving the HHS mandate. The outcome of those cases will have very significant religious liberty implications.
To ready ourselves for this year’s Fortnight, I want to focus our attention on a gathering in early May that needs our involvement and support.
In 2009, Catholic and other national religious leaders came together to draft the Manhattan Declaration. The Declaration sought to address growing debates over the sanctity of life, the integrity of marriage and the future of religious freedom in the public square, and to provide the latest news and helpful commentary on these issues.
Since then, Manhattan Declaration supporters have stayed active on all these vital matters, with discussions, action alerts and educational meetings around the country. This year — on Friday, May 2 — the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will sponsor “The Manhattan Declaration in Philadelphia,” an interfaith prayer service and religious liberty forum. Speakers and panelists will include Ryan Anderson, editor of The Public Discourse; Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List; author Sherif Girgis; Robert George of Princeton University; Patrick Brennan, Scarpa Chair at the Villanova University School of Law; Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and others.
The May 2 forum will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the F.M. Kirby Auditorium of the National Constitution Center. The Center is located just steps from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The event is free of charge but advance registration is required.
I know the demands on everyone’s time are very heavy. But I’ll be taking an active part in this gathering. And if your schedule allows, I ask you to please join me for this vitally important event. Religious freedom is our first freedom and a fundamental right — but it can only remain so if we work to protect it.