Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Our First, Most Cherished Liberty"

The USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has just released this document, which includes a number of interesting historical and theological arguments. Here's a brief excerpt:

Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.

https://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/04/our-first-most-cherished-liberty.html

Moreland, Michael | Permalink

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The USCCB document notes:

"In 1634, a mix of Catholic and Protestant settlers arrived at St. Clement's Island in Southern Maryland from England aboard the Ark and the Dove. They had come at the invitation of the Catholic Lord Baltimore, who had been granted Maryland by the Protestant King Charles I of England. While Catholics and Protestants were killing each other in Europe, Lord Baltimore imagined Maryland as a society where people of different faiths could live together peacefully. This vision was soon codified in Maryland's 1649 Act Concerning Religion (also called the 'Toleration Act'), which was the first law in our nation's history to protect an individual's right to freedom of conscience."

However, the protection of the "right to freedom of conscience" in Maryland's "Act Concerning Religion" tolerated the death penalty for persons denying the Holy Trinity:

"That whatsoever pson or psons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the ffather sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three psons of the Trinity or the Vnity of this Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three psons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires, And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid. That whatsoever pson or psons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the sume of ffive pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such pson soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have such goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfyeing of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publiquely whipt and bee ymprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Leivet or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being."

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=694&chapter=102701&layout=html&Itemid=27

"In February 1658, at the provincial court of St. Mary's, two witnesses charged that Jacob Lumbrozo (the first Jewish doctor in any of the colonies) had uttered his opinion that Christ's resurrection 'might be done by necromancy or sorcery.' Although Lumbrozo declared that he had 'said not any thing scoffingly, or in derogation by him whom Christians acknowledge for their Messiah,' he was found guilty and jailed. (As fate would have it, 10 days later came word of Oliver Cromwell's accession to power in England and of his declaration of a general amnesty. Lumbrozo, almost a victim of the 'Toleration Act,' was set free.)"

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-03-25/news/1993084010_1_toleration-act-religious-liberty-piece-of-legislation

Posted by: DFB | Apr 13, 2012 7:14:23 AM