'America' on Religious Liberty: A look back on the religious liberty debate

In light of the continuing debate around religious liberty and the rights of religious organizations, as well as the conscience of the individual, we present here a collection of articles that have discussed, defended and articulated these issues over the past 70 years.

Hobby Lobby 

"Corporate Idolatry? Legal Fictions Don't Have Human Rights," July 7, 2014, by John D. Whitney, S.J.


"Hobby Lobby: Unpredictable Impact on Other Suits," July 1, 2014, by David Gibson

"A Victory for Religious Liberty," July 1, 2014, by Robert Destro

"Hobby Lobby, A Decision Both Broad and Narrow," July 1, 2014, by Thomas Berg

"In God We Trust: Responding to the Hobby Lobby Ruling," June 30, 2014, by Sean Salai, S.J.

"Hobby Lobby Reactions," June 30, 2014, Kevin Clarke

"Responding in the Name of Religious Freedom," June 30, 2014, by Helen Alvaré  

H.H.S. Contraception Mandate

"Taking Liberties: Religious freedom, Obamacare and the rights of American business," May 26, 2014, by Ellen K. Boegel 

“Beyond the Fortnight,” July 1-8, 2013, by Archbishop William Lori

"Policy, Not Liberty," March 5, 2012, by The Editors

From the Archives 

“The Place of the Poor in “The Joy of the Gospel,”” December 13, 2013, by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick

“Murray’s Mistake,” September 23, 2013, by Michael Baxter

“Standing for the Unborn,” May 26, 2003, by The International Ministries of the Jesuit Conference

“The ACLU Strays,” November 52001, by Thomas J. Curry

 “Religious Persecution,” May 13, 2000, by The Editors

“Religion, Education and the First Amendment,” May 15, 1993, by John J. Coughlin, O.F.M.

“Religious Liberty, If You Can Keep It,” May 15, 1976, by John R. Breslin

“Freedom, Authority, Community,” pdf., December 3, 1966, by John Courtney Murray

“The Declaration on Religious Liberty: Its Deeper Significance,” pdf., April 23, 1966, by John Courtney Murray

“Catholicism and Freedom,” April 4, 1964, by H.A. MacDougall

“On Religious Liberty” November 30, 1963, by John Courtney Murray

‘Religious Toleration in a World Society,’ January 9, 1954, by Gustave Weigel

“Separation of Church and State” pdf., December 7th, 1946, by John Courtney Murray



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Freeport Sulphur
5 years 1 month ago
One should not suggest that our conception of religious liberties are necessarily being narrowed when distinctions are invoked between matters of creed and cult, on one hand, and code and community, on the other. By creed and cult, I refer to those evaluative dispositions that inform our faith-based beliefs and dogma, celebrations and rituals. By code and community, I refer to those normative propositions that inform our conscience-based moral and practical approaches, including our socio-economic-politico-cultural interactions. Such evaluative positions of our faith-based liberties are not inconsistent with reason but clearly go beyond it. The normative propositions of our conscience-based liberties, however, are transparent to human reason, accessible to all without the benefit of special divine revelation. While the religious expressions we want to protect include both faith-based and conscience-based liberties, the latter do lend themselves to the evidential, empirical, logical, moral and practical dimensions of human reason and should be deliberated in the public square. What constitutes a legitimate and compelling government interest of general applicability should not be trumped constitutionally, by nonestablishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment, due to anyone's conscience-based objections. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government's interest must be advanced in the least restrictive manner practicable, though, so as not to unnecessarily burden one's religious expressions, whether faith-based or conscience-based. Furthermore, a classical distinction of moral philosophy should come into play - remote material cooperation, which distinguishes between direct and indirect levels of cooperation; this is a distinction that should not be pushed too far beyond the boundaries of common sense and sensibilities, using logic so tortured as to lend one's position to absurd parodies. Finally, while transparent to human reason, not all moral and practical realities enjoy the same clarity or involve the same gravity, so may or may not warrant a greater or lesser or any degree of coercion by government, taking into account subsidiarity principles. What I look for, then, are the recommendations of medical science, the amount of public consensus regarding the moral object's clarity and gravity, the actual beliefs and practices of the citizenry, in general, the sensus fidelium, in particular, and a common sense approach to such principles of moral philosophy as remote material cooperation. With all that in mind, evading the issue of corporate vs personal rights, the government does seem to me to have a legitimately compelling interest and will find a way to advance it, without unnecessarily burdening anyone's religious expression, through various exemptions and accommodations, perhaps by making a change in its certification process, e.g. rewrite the form. But let's not advance the notion that the distinction between faith-based and conscience-based religious expressions is some type of hegemonic secularism when it comes, instead, from a time-honored philosophical tradition.


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