“Fundamental Defense of Religious Liberty”
First, I would like to thank the Fortnight for Freedom organizers for inviting me here to speak, and to thank all of you for being here today.
Right now, in the land of the free we are faced with having to defend religious liberty. We have a government that is becoming increasingly involved in our own personal acts of conscience and belief. To sufficiently defend ourselves in today’s debate it is important to understand where our religious liberty comes from (and liberty itself for that matter). Does it come from the government or any written piece of paper; or does it preexist government?
The Declaration of Independence answers this question not just for Americans, but also for all peoples that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In other words, our liberties do not originate from any government or document but are and have always been a natural part of our humanity deriving from God, the ultimate authority. Remarkably, fifty years before the birth of Christ, Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero insightfully observed on human rights that this “higher power [endowed] humans with a bit of its own divinity.” Religious liberty, like all other liberties, is as natural to us as any part of our body. This includes the right to worship whatever you so choose and the right to act according to your conscience as dictated by your beliefs.
So how can any government claim to have greater authority than God and Nature by denying, through the law, our liberties? A government that denies our liberty, denies our humanity.
We are all too familiar with the Health and Human Services Mandate that forces Catholic organizations to purchase insurance that includes contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. Unfortunately, this is but one of a long line of outrageous violations on religious liberty:
- In certain parts of the U.S. including the state of Illinois and Boston, MA, Catholic foster care and adoption services are being shut down by the government because these Charities cannot in good conscience place children with same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples that only cohabit (that are not married)
- Also, across the U.S. especially in the Northeast, Catholic humanitarian services for victims of human trafficking are being penalized because they refuse to provide contraception and abortion services
There is a complete list of all these transgressions on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
With the HHS Mandate, our opponents want to make it an argument about the morality of contraception and abortion— that the church, to its credit, would never compromise on. In reality, the moral debate is a distraction. The true debate is whether or not the government can coerce its citizens through the law to perform an action that would betray their consciences.
On the other hand, they are also using the argument that having access to abortion and contraception constitutes a so-called “right” for women and therefore cannot be denied. Yet, how can you invent a “right” at the expense of somebody else’s right—namely at the expense of our religious liberty to not act against our consciences? John Locke, an English philosopher and great influence in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, would argue that in the perfect natural state, with all our freedoms intact that “people…[would] not have to ask permission…[n]or depend on the will of others to arrange [a] matter on their behalf.” So why does the “right” to access contraception and abortion depend on the sacrifice of our consciences?
We have a choice. We can continue to allow the government to direct our actions despite our beliefs, or we can challenge this illicit authority and become free to live and act as we so choose. Let us stand unafraid for what is rightfully ours and let us not forget, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fear the people, there is liberty.” Thank you.