The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently released their three-year strategic plan focusing on five priorities: evangelization, family and marriage, human life and dignity, vocations and ongoing formation, and religious freedom.
On Thursday, May 4, the last of these priorities was endorsed when President Trump signed a religious freedom executive order. Many religious leaders hailed President Trump’s action as a first step towards protecting religious freedom; however, some stated that the president’s order was a disappointment and didn’t go far enough.
It is no secret that advocates of religious freedom felt threatened under the Obama administration. The United States bishops spoke out forcefully against a Health and Human Services mandate that would require employers to provide coverage for contraceptives. Many legal battles were fought against the mandate as well. One of the highest profile cases involves the Little Sisters of the Poor who have been ensnarled in a lengthy legal battle to obtain an exemption from the mandate on the grounds of conscience and religious faith.
The United States has always prided itself on being the land of liberty where people are free to worship and to live according to their own religious faith. Religious freedom does not simply mean the freedom to worship as one wants; it also means religious communities should be free to live according to the dictates of their faith in the public square.
While the executive order may not be as sweeping as some would have liked, hopefully President Trump’s order, along with the Bishops’ Strategic Plan, will continue the momentum of protecting religious liberty in our great nation.