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Background

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.(1) 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.(2)

 

The principle of religious freedom and conscience protection measures are important in their own right, but are also important foundations for other rights. Nations with strong religious freedom also tend to have freedom of the press, freedom of free speech, and freedom for women and minority populations, because essentially freedom of religion comes down to objective truth of the dignity of the human person.(3) Religious liberty concerns everybody, religious or not, because it is such a fundamental right that all other rights flow from it.

  • While 85% of Americans could name freedom of speech as a freedom from the First Amendment, only 47% could recall and name freedom of religion as a right also stemming from the First Amendment (4)

  • While most people in the U.S. (88-94%) agree that there should be freedom of religion and prayer without persecution, that drops to 86% in support of religious practices which are contrary to popular practices (i.e. not drinking alcohol, avoiding certain eat, wearing a hijab, etc.)(5)

  • Globally, government restrictions on religion have been reaching peak levels in the past 5 years; meanwhile, social hostilities have decreased.(6)

  • According to Open Doors, an organization addressing Christian persecution, 1 in 7 Christians worldwide are persecuted; In 2023, nearly 5,000 Christians were murdered for their faith, over 4,000 detained, and nearly 15,000 churches and properties were attacked.(7)

  • In 2024, the USCCB listed their top 5 threats to religious liberty as: attacks on houses of worship; mandate to doctors to perform gender transition procedures and possibly abortions; threats to religious charities serving immigrants and refugees; suppression of religious speech regarding marriage and sexuality; and employer requirement to be complicit in abortion and transportation for abortion.(8)

1https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html

2ibid

3https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpPh6ymIhjg

4https://www.becketlaw.org/index/2022-findings

5ibid

6https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2024/03/05/globally-government-restrictions-on-religion-reached-peak-levels-in-2021-while-social-hostilities-went-down/

7https://www.opendoors.org/en-US/persecution/countries/

8https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/2024-annual-report

Church Documents

Catechism of the Catholic Church

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