by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan — The issue of religious freedom is no abstract academic debate. Around the world, Christians and other people of faith are suffering and dying every day.
“Globally, we’re living in a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented religious persecution,” said Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for social justice. “There are more Christians dying for the faith now than during the [persecutions] of ancient Rome.”
But what of the United States, with its long history of religious freedom and constitutional protections?
“In the United States, there’s not by any means open oppression of religious freedom,” said Scholl, “but we’re seeing a trend of a diminishment of what, historically, has been a robust understanding of religious freedom.
“State authorities have tried to confine the idea of religious freedom to one of just worship — your religious freedom is what happens just inside your church. And that has never been our understanding. Americans have always been free to practice their religion in ways that conform to the common good in the public square.”
Concerns about the diminishment of religious freedom grew during the past few months when states, counties and municipalities issued restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The state does have a compelling interest in public health, but there were cases of unequal treatment and governmental overreach, said Scholl.
One such example was in Howard County, Maryland, which issued an executive order that would have prohibited receiving the Eucharist. Fortunately, that order was rescinded.
This year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated June 22-29 as Religious Freedom Week. For resources, go online to: usccb.org. At the top of the homepage, click on the heading “Religious Freedom Week 2020: June 22-29.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will preach about religious liberty for his homily during his 10 a.m. Mass on June 21 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. The homily will be recorded and available for viewing on the archdiocesan website at: arch kck.org.
Also, the archdiocesan social justice office will sponsor an online symposium on religious freedom — “Religious Freedom in the Time of COVID” — from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on June 22. It will feature three speakers and a discussion moderated by Scholl.
The event is free, but by invitation only to participants who register. To register, go online to: archkck.org/social justice. Participants who register will be sent a link the day of the event.