Washington, D.C. Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty,” issued today by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty:


 It is with great disappointment that I read the proclamation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on religious freedom. While I believe there are real threats to religious freedom in our nation today, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Catholic Church’s definition of religious freedom is one that is only concerned with its own beliefs and practices and makes no room for those whose views differ. In the democratic society in which we live, we are fortunate our government makes accommodations when necessary to protect our beliefs and practices, but the Constitution still trumps scripture in every case. In fact, it is because of this understanding that religion – all religion – has been able to flourish in the United States.


The doctrine of the Catholic Church should be given no more weight in the creation of public policy than should the views of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or any of the many other religions that can be found in this country. This includes the many Christian denominations that hold a different interpretation of the teachings of Jesus than the Catholic Church. 


As I read the Bishops’ Proclamation, there are points with which I agree and areas where I disagree. I agree that legislatures should not be able to require a church to alter its governance structure. I strongly disagree with the Bishops’ stance on the current Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate. I believe it does provide enough of an accommodation to protect religious freedom.


To allow an exception to those rules is to enshrine one religious group’s theology in the policy of a non-sectarian government. In a document such as the Bishops’ Proclamation, we as Americans have a right to pick and choose with which parts we agree and follow. But the same cannot be said of the U.S. Constitution; it is what unifies us as a nation and protects our rights against all else.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.