Fortnight for Freedom illustrates grave threats to religious liberty
Three years ago, the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty issued the statement “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” expressing grave concerns about increasing attacks against religious liberty at home and abroad. First among these attacks is the Obama Administration’s HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate.
In this statement, the Ad Hoc Committee also announced the first Fortnight for Freedom designed to raise awareness of the serious threats to religious freedom and to call Catholics to 14 days of prayer, education and action for religious freedom in the United States and abroad. The Bishops are calling us to a third Fortnight for Freedom this year from June 21 to July 4.
The theme of this year’s Fortnight is “Freedom to Serve” and, according to the Ad Hoc Committee, will “focus on how religious freedom enables the flourishing of the Church’s robust service to the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.” This freedom to serve is in grave jeopardy by the Obama Administration which thinks that the First Amendment grants freedom to worship (not freedom of religion) as long as it stays within the four walls of our churches.
The timeframe of the Fortnight, June 21 to July 4, was chosen because it corresponds with the liturgical celebrations of the “great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, including St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.”
The Ad Hoc Committee points out that this year’s Fortnight is significant for the following reasons:
First, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in late June on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases. In these cases, two families, one evangelical and one Mennonite, are challenging the HHS mandate that would require them to include life-terminating drugs and devices in their closely-held companies’ health insurance plans.
Second, we are seeing increasing threats to the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. In the last few months, several federal courts have struck down state marriage amendments, and appeals of these decisions are ongoing.
Third, the success of this Fortnight is vital to establishing and maintaining a new movement for religious freedom, in response to the growing range of religious freedom issues in so many areas of law, such as immigration, adoption, and disaster relief, both here and abroad.
Many excellent prayer and educational materials for celebrating the Fortnight are available (in English and Spanish) online at www.fortnight4freedom.org. The prayer resources include a litany for liberty, a template for a holy hour, prayers of the faithful, and a prayer for the protection of religious liberty (available on three beautiful prayer cards).
The educational materials include several fact sheets explaining various domestic and international threats to religious liberty, and an excellent document providing compelling answers to frequently asked questions about religious liberty.
There are also daily reflections and readings taken from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) along with questions that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection. The daily reflections and readings (minus the discussion questions) are available in a more printable format at www.nebcathcon.org.
Fourteen additional suggestions for celebrating the Fortnight in your parish are available on the Fortnight website (under “Prayer Resources”) and include: 1) celebrating a memorial Mass for Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher June 21 (vigil) or June 22 (their feast day) to open the Fortnight for Freedom; 2) sponsoring a movie night showing a relevant movie such as “A Man for All Seasons,” “For Greater Glory,” “First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty,” or “Becket”; and 3) praying the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty at the end of daily Mass.
Finally, the Bishops urge us to stay up-to-date on current religious freedom issues by signing up for text messages from the USCCB. It’s easy. Just text the word “FREEDOM” to 377377. For those who prefer e-mail alerts, click on the “Take Action” link at www.fortnight4freedom.org.