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 is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.