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Daily Message

We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions. 

Standing Together for Religious Freedom
An Open Letter to All Americans, July 2, 2013


Church Teaching on Religious Freedom



Dignitatis Humanae

In Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican Council Fathers explained that the foundation of the principle of religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the human person, who is endowed with reason and free will, and therefore able to take responsibility for his or her actions. Religious freedom is identifiable both through reason and divine revelation; it exists to allow human persons to fulfill their obligation to seek God and must be a civil or constitutional right. The document explains that freedom to practice religion is not relativism – there is one way to salvation, through Jesus Christ.

Pope Paul VI recommended the following core principles for governments to consider when formalizing religious freedom into law:

  • Do not require what conscience forbids, or forbid what conscience requires
  • Religious freedom should be exercised individually and communally, in private and public
  • Parents have the right and responsibility to direct the religious upbringing of their children
  • Internal affairs of religious organizations are recognized as such, including in the:
    • Selection and training of ministers
    • Ability to own buildings, money and other property
    • Right to teach and witness
  • No discrimination based on religion – even if there is an established state religion
  • Government should acknowledge religion and show it favor, but should not command or inhibit religious acts
  • Right to express religion in the public square

Likewise, religions must acknowledge their limits within a free society:

  • Avoid coercion in evangelization
  • Exercise with civility and responsibility
  • Do not abuse legitimate religious freedom
  • Acknowledge "due limits" for a "just public order"

Redemptor Hominis

"The requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world." (No. 12)

"Certainly the curtailment of the religious freedom of individuals and communities is not only a painful experience but it is above all an attack on man's very dignity, independently of the religion professed or of the concept of the world which these individuals and communities have. The curtailment and violation of religious freedom are in contrast with man's dignity and his objective rights. The Council document mentioned above states clearly enough what that curtailment or violation of religious freedom is. In this case we are undoubtedly confronted with a radical injustice with regard to what is particularly deep within man, what is authentically human." (No. 17)

"Nowadays it is sometimes held, though wrongly, that freedom is an end in itself, that each human being is free when he makes use of freedom as he wishes, and that this must be our aim in the lives of individuals and societies. In reality, freedom is a great gift only when we know how to use it consciously for everything that is our true good. Christ teaches us that the best use of freedom is charity, which takes concrete form in self-giving and in service. For this "freedom Christ has set us free" and ever continues to set us free. The Church draws from this source the unceasing inspiration, the call and the drive for her mission and her service among all mankind. The full truth about human freedom is indelibly inscribed on the mystery of the Redemption." (No. 21) —Saint John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (1979)

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