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USCCB Leaders Urge Trump To Protect Religious Liberty

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USCCB Leaders Urge Trump To Protect Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic Church leaders in a Feb. 16
statement said they were encouraged that President Donald Trump may be considering
an executive order to protect religious freedom and said they would be grateful
if he would move forward with the pledge that his administration would “do
everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty.”

“As Christians, our goal is
to live and serve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we
are not forced from the public square,” said the statement from committee
chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The statement was jointly issued
by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life
Activities; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, chairman of the Committee
on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori,
chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Frank J.
Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and
Human Development.

The church leaders said an
executive order would “implement strong protections for religious freedom across
the federal government in many of the areas where it has been eroded by the
preceding administration, such as health coverage, adoption, accreditation, tax
exemption, and government grants and contracts.”

“We ourselves, as well as those we shepherd and serve, would be most grateful if
the president would take this positive step toward allowing all Americans to be
able to practice their faith without severe penalties from the federal
government,” they said.

A draft version of the executive order was leaked in late January called
“Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.”
When it failed to appear on the president’s desk, rumors were circulating that
a scaled-back version might appear at his desk but there has been no word about
it from the Trump administration.

The U.S. bishops posted an online letter for Catholics to send to the president urging
him to sign the order after the draft version was leaked.

The Feb. 16 statement said the
order would restore “the federal government’s proper relationship with the
First Amendment and other laws protecting conscience and religious freedom will
enable us to continue our service to the most vulnerable of Americans.”

The statement stressed that U.S.
Catholic bishops have long supported religious liberty, adding that during the
last several years “the federal government has eroded this fundamental
right,” most notably with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate
for religious employers who do not fit the mandate’s narrow exemption including
the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The USCCB leaders urged Trump to keep his promise and put an end to regulations and other
mandates by the federal government “that force people of faith to make
impossible choices.

“We express our fervent hope that with new leadership in the
executive branch, basic protections for religious practice may be restored and
even strengthened,” they said.

The statement said an immediate
remedy to the threats against religious freedom is needed and without it the
church’s freedom to serve others “will remain in jeopardy and needless
conflict between the faith community and the federal government will continue.”


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