Fortnight for Freedom Fizzles to a Close

fortnight for freedomToday,the Fourth of July, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2nd “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign comes to an end, and it looks like this effort was not any more successful than last year’s program.  The campaign, which began on June 21st, was intended to rouse Catholics to become motivated to work to protect religious freedom in the U.S.  The bishops have proposed that the freedom of Catholics to worship and govern their church is under fire, particularly because of the advancement of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in the political world.  The fact that Catholics do not envision the issue with the same sense of threat that the bishops do is a major factor in the failure of the campaigns the last two years.

Marcos Breton, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, points out that the Catholic bishops seem afraid of the changes that are happening in American culture, and that may be why they have latched on to the religious freedom argument.  “The world is changing rapidly,” he wrote, “and it’s natural for some to view the change with trepidation.”

But that doesn’t mean that religious people need to fear for their freedom.  Breton suggests a positive toleration on both sides of the marriage question:

“Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia, meaning that roughly 30 percent of Americans now reside in states that support marriage equality.

“Within five years, gay marriage could very likely be legal in all 50 states. Public opinion has tilted in favor of marriage equality so quickly, it seems history is on fast forward.

“Watching same-sex couples arrive at the Sacramento County clerk’s office on television Friday reminded me of the night the Berlin Wall came down.

“Years of pent-up emotion suddenly found a release. Old restrictions dissolved into thin air. There were tears. There was exultation and a sense of giddy disbelief. Isolated people suddenly joined a broader community.

“With due respect to fellow Christians who disagree, this was cause for celebration – one that doesn’t have to come at the expense of religious freedom or with intolerance toward religious people.

“You can support the idea that government has no business restricting same-sex marriages while loving your church and trying to live the Gospel.”

And toleration for religious institutions is not only a good thing to do, Breton points out it is also the law:

“In a ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to invalidate, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote: ‘Affording (same-sex) couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom or any religious organization, official or any other person; no religion will be required to change its policies or practices with regard to same sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.’ “

Steve Chapman, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, also challenges the idea that religious freedom is under attack because of the spread of marriage equality.  Speaking of religious people who make such a claim, Chapman wrote:

“It’s a bit rich for these groups to complain that the court is infringing on their freedom to infringe on the freedom of gays. Advocates of same-sex marriage are not trying to exclude heterosexuals from matrimony. They are only asking to be free to practice it as well.

“But opponents charge that churches will be forced to host same-sex weddings and their clergy will be required to perform them. Churches that refuse, they say, may be stripped of their tax-exempt status.

“The likelihood that any of these fears will come to pass ranges from minimal to zero. State laws allow divorce, but Catholic priests haven’t been forced to preside at the weddings of divorced Catholics. Employment discrimination laws haven’t been applied to end bans on female clergy. Nor have such internal church policies led to the loss of standard tax exemptions.”

Chapman notes that marriage equality, far from eroding freedom, is actually an extension of it:

“When Justice Anthony Kennedy made the case for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, though, he relied on a different provision. DOMA, he wrote, ‘is a deprivation of an essential part of the liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment.’ “

Let’s hope that the failure of this second year’s campaign may teach the bishops that Catholics do not see their religious liberty threatened by marriage equality.  Indeed, many Catholics see the support of marriage equality as an important way to practice their faith, not an impediment to it.  Instead of Fortnights for Freedom, the bishops would do better to have Fortnights for Dialogue, so they can learn from Catholics how issues of LGBT equality proceed from their love of God, neighbor, and the church.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts:

April 13, 2012: How Threatened Is Religious Liberty?

June 22, 2012:  U.S. Bishops Launch Campaign to Bolster Idea that Religious Liberty Is at Stake

June 25, 2012:  A Gay Catholic’s Plea for Inclusion During the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

June 27, 2012:  In DC, Gay Catholics Protest ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Campaign

July 7, 2012:  ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Campaign Ends With Protest and Op-Ed




14 replies
  1. Glenn Stockton
    Glenn Stockton says:

    The LGBT community’s insistence in absconding with word “marriage” and of changing its definition is a negative. It is unnecessarily confrontational and confusion causing. Choose a new word! Whatever it is, “marriage” it is not. It is inherently and insurmountably different from marriage between a man and a woman; the central difference being that marriage is open to God-given natural pro-creation, while gay relationships are not and cannot be. Since society does in fact seem hell-bent on legalizing and promoting gay ???, new word should be created to replace the question marks and to distinguish it from true marriage.

    • Stephen Sottile
      Stephen Sottile says:

      That is just silly. Same sex couples have participated in same sex contractual relationships in both Eastern and Western cultures: China, Japan, Native Americans, Early Christans, etc. the current views of religious bigots is based on a definition of marriage frozen in time and does not reflect what history shows us. The Church’s now need to recuse themselves from marriage as a civil contract, as is now done in France. Those who view marriage as more than a civil contract can enter into the sacramental bond through the sect of their choice.

      • Glenn Stockton
        Glenn Stockton says:

        At this point I suppose it mostly a semantical issue. And, it is demonstrative of the destruction of the true meaning of marriage as a holy triad between a man, a woman, and God. The destruction of the institution began long before gay marriage made legal headway, as you say with civil marriages, “no fault” divorce, etc. So, heterosexuals must take the blame for beginning the slide down this slippery slope. Even so, in describing the relationship between ourselves and our creator, it is annoying that my wife and I will now need to expand explaining our relationship to others from simply “married” to “sacramentally married”. I still hold that a simpler solution would be (or would have been at this point) to coin a new term for what is a clearly and distinctly different type of relationship.

  2. duckman44625
    duckman44625 says:

    Although there are sincere, truly Christlike Bishops/priests, this “Fortnight for Freedom” is sheer hypocrisy and the Bishops know it. There is no threat to religious freedom – Marriage Equality, defeat of DOMA, PROP 8, and more to come – is about individual civil rights of all people in the USA. The Bishops’ concern has more to do with their crumbling control over the masses. The sheep have started to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit…knowledge, wisdom, understanding, fortitude – to weigh the teachings of the Church – and as even Catholic Theology instructs (See Baltimore Catechism) follow their sincere consciences even when in opposition to Church teachings – as we are obligated to do before God. The days of blind obedience are dead and gone. The Bishops need to look in the mirror before they chastise and judge us as sinners.

  3. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
    Fran Rossi Szpylczyn says:

    The whole things sets off an undignified message that solidifies the base that already agrees with the kind of F4F thinking, and further alienates anyone who does not.

    As Tahir Square erupts once again, drones fall in Pakistan, Guantanmo still sits open, children go hungry every night, both here and abroad – in startling numbers, the Voting Rights act is undone in a flash, corrupt business people and politicians gut the most basic tenets of our society and this is what our focus is supposed to be on?

    A priest is beheaded in Syria. Coptic churches have burned and will burn again. A 14 year old Pakistani girl is jailed for blasphemy. Muslims and Buddhists are at odds in Burma, with the Muslims persecuted. Turkey is a simmering hot pot waiting to blow again. Once again I ask – this is what our focus is supposed to be on?

    It is utterly absurd and reaches for the lowest common denominator. I hope and pray that they do not try to do this again.

    I just read a something written by the theologian Massimo Faggioli. He was commenting – and perhaps wisely so – that as we narrow our focus on our rights, he was addressing individual rights, we narrow rights for all at large. There’s something to that here, as we try to focus on protecting our religious liberty rather than trying to protect our values, which point to healing, community, salvation and light.

    Sorry for the ramble – no coffee yet.

  4. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    In the Spirit of 4th of July, we stop and give thanks to those who have given so much so we can celebrate this special day. In that same Spirit of Freedom let us also take a moment to thank all those who have given so much that today we celebrate the Supreme Court decision and the hard work in the 13 states and DC, were we celebrate MARRIAGE EQUALITY. In both celebrations, we are reminded that freedom for all is always a work in process. I pray that our church leaders join the people of GOD and celebrate all that is good in freedom, justice, and equality for all!

  5. tom vaughn
    tom vaughn says:

    Well written and somewhat on point, but I believe the PRIMARY purpose of the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign was to protest the Affordable Health Care Act section which requires the provision of contraception prescriptions for employees of some religious-affiliated employers. The Obama administration has bent over backwards to make this clause acceptable to the institutions, even providing that the institutions themselves would NOT be required to pay for such sevices, but the Bishops are still not satisfied and plan to take the issue to the courts.

    In my mind their REAL goal is to discredit the current administration. The NACCB is coming so close to getting involved in partisan politics that they might as well be ordering priests to preach the need to elect a Republican to office.

    As a lifelong Catholic, every time I drive by a church plastered with “Protect Religious Freedom” signs I want to scream. How about some protection FROM religion, Cardinal Dolan and colleagues. Thank God my parish (headed by a priest who is NOT an archdiocesan priest but from a religious order) is not one which posts these signs or even hints that religious freedom is in danger.


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