“American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty. That freedom reminds one of America’s most precious possessions.”—Pope Francis (Speech at White House, September 23, 2015)
In a time when hate and fear of religious difference has dominated much of the rhetoric of some presidential candidates, we remain committed to preserving that freedom of religion which is an anchor of the first amendment to the Constitution. As Americans, we are called to respect people of all faiths, including Muslims in our midst. As Saint Francis did with the Islamic Sultan, we must reach out as Catholics to form friendships and partnerships with Muslims.
There is no room in our society for anti-immigrant laws that seek to exclude any people based on their religious beliefs. Our democracy is strongest when we support diversity of thought and belief. We are also strong when everyone can live in communities, contributing to the common good.
Jesus tells us our faith must manifest itself in works, so we insist that no distinction be drawn between our houses of worship and our public ministries to the poor and sick. This ensures that our work to serve the excluded can be practiced within our faith tradition. That being said, no Catholic institution—or any institution—should use a false notion of religious liberty to discriminate against anyone they employ or serve, particularly the LGBTQ community.
Sadly, the issue of religious liberty has often morphed into a partisan wedge. The United States’ foundational commitment to religious liberty has, for more than two hundred years, helped unite Americans, not divide them. We oppose efforts to restrict religious liberty for all people of any religion, but we also oppose efforts to demean it by turning it into a partisan issue.
At times there can be honest disagreements about just what is the common good, but we must work together to ensure that the religious consciences of all of our people are honored. This, at times, can lead to different perspectives on the freedom of practice of religious beliefs; but our faith challenges us to work together to find the way forward where we maximize the freedom of expression and denigrate no one.
Questions to Consider When Reading About or Listening to Candidates:
- How is each candidate talking about our Muslim neighbors and refugees from the Middle East?
- What is each candidate saying about the freedom of conscience of individual, religious institutions, and even private businesses?