New video looks at meaning of religious freedom, court fight on mandate


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Religious
freedom “is foundational to our church and American society,” said Baltimore
Archbishop William E. Lori in announcing a new video that explores
the foundations of church teaching on religious liberty, including the Second
Vatican Council document “Dignitatis Humanae.”

The archbishop made the comments
April 12 as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc
Committee for Religious Liberty, which released the video.

Vatican II’s 1965 Declaration on
Religious Freedom affirmed that the “right to religious freedom has its
foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known
through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.”

The video also highlights the
Little Sisters of the Poor, who serve the elderly poor in nursing homes across
the United States. The Little Sisters, along with other Catholic entities and
other faith-based groups, await a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik
v. Burwell, a lawsuit that challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services’ mandate that employers, including most religious employers, cover
contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in employee health plans.

The video is available at; on the USCCB’s religious freedom
home page at; and at

“This video makes clear
that the Little Sisters’ case must be viewed within the context of the church’s
deep commitment to the right of every person to have the ability to practice
their faith and choose what is right, free of government interference,”
Archbishop Lori said.

Oral arguments in Zubik v.
Burwell were heard by the high court March 23.

On March 29, the court issued an
unusual order seeking additional briefs from the plaintiffs and the federal
government about how and if contraceptive insurance coverage could be obtained
by employees through their insurance companies without directly involving
religious employers who object to this coverage.

On April 12, the plaintiffs filed
a brief with the court in which they agreed with the proposal that such coverage
be provided through an alternative health care plan without involving the
religious employers. The government also filed a brief, arguing that it wanted
to keep the contraceptive mandate intact, but offered that it would go along
with the court’s suggestion despite the possibility that it might not close the
door on future legal challenges.

Both parties have until April 20
to file responses to the briefs. The court is expected to rule on the case near
the end of its term in June.

The announcement on the new
video also included information on the U.S. bishops’ 2016 Fortnight for Freedom,
two-week period of prayer, education and advocacy focused on the role of faith
in public life and the preservation of religious liberty rights.

The fifth annual observance will
take place June 21-July 4. This year’s theme is “Witnesses to
Freedom” and will include a nationwide tour of relics of St. Thomas More
and St. John Fisher, martyrs of the English Reformation.

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