Religious freedom is at risk in the United States as well

It’s unlikely that religious freedom in the United States would ever vanish as quickly as it has in recent days in Iraq, where violent Islamic militants are taking over cities in a murderous advance that has set the world on edge. In those occupied areas, shariah law and its strict moral and legal code has been imposed.

Yet the U.S. bishops remain so concerned about threats to religious freedom in our own nation that, for the third year, they are sponsoring a 14-day period of prayer and awareness called the “Fortnight for Freedom,” beginning June 21 and leading to Independence Day, July 4.

In the Diocese of Peoria, Bishop Jenky has been a champion of the cause of religious liberty, to the point of asking that the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel be offered at weekend Masses throughout the diocese for the protection of the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.

That freedom is threatened especially by the federal government’s Health and Human Services Mandate that forces Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, and charitable groups to provide insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. Lawsuits disputing the government’s power to require such coverage continue to make their way through the court system.

Further, we are seeing increasing threats to the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The theme of this year’s Fortnight is “Freedom to Serve.” It highlights existing Catholic service activities and institutions and how they would be harmed if existing religious freedom protections were eroded.

While the observances in the diocese will be local ones, those looking to take part in a larger rally may opt to drive to Springfield for a “Freedom Prayer Rally for Religious Liberty” at noon on Tuesday, July 1. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield will lead a prayer service in support of religious liberty near the Lincoln Statue at the State Capitol.

Maybe there’s not an army amassing at our border. But there are signs of erosions of our liberty. Through prayer, education, and public action during the Fortnight for Freedom, we will promote the importance of preserving the essential right of religious freedom, for now and the future, for Catholics and for those of all faiths. — Thomas J. Dermody

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