The 5th annual Iowa Religious Freedom Day will be marked at the State Capitol on Thursday, April 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is invited to attend this non-partisan event to learn about the value of religious diversity and religious freedom. This year’s event will highlight the connection between families and religious liberty.

As Catholics, it is because of the unique value we place on the role of the family that we place such unique value on the freedom of religious liberty.

Our faith teaches the human person is destined for life in community with others, and our first experience of community is as a member of a family. That perspective is a departure in today’s world, because as public discourse is focused on the rights and freedom of the individual, Catholic teaching looks at the individual as a member of a family, and at the family in relation to society. We believe it is “the basic unit of the social fabric of society itself,” and the success or failure of the former predicts the success or failure of the latter.

The Second Vatican Council expressed our reverence for the institutions of marriage and family, which are initiated by God, when it referred to them as creating “the domestic church.” Our faith is witnessed there daily in how we treat one another and how our family becomes an evangelizing witness to our faith in society. As children, it is our first experience with a model of governance and the first school of the Christian life and service. It is where we are introduced to love, compassion and cooperation, forgiveness and charity. With God’s grace, it is where parents and spouses live out their vocation to create centers of living faith.

As families are the basic component of civil society, our faith is the basic component of our family life. It sustains and guides us and gives us the strength and courage to face the countless challenges of daily family life. We rely on the freedom of religious liberty to insure that our faith will be available not only to be learned, but to be lived. In that sense, its virtue can extend even beyond the home, allowing each family and each family member “to make their rightful contribution to the life of the society in which they live . . . as part of the vocation to assist in the creation of a society of just laws.”

Ultimately, a humane and just society preserves its mission by protecting the family, which in turn relies on religious liberty to preserve their freedom to serve the “domestic church” and meet their obligations to one another. In our pluralistic society, religious liberty is a need, not a want, and critical to the stability of families and communities.

Please join us at the capitol for this important event and show your support. The Iowa Catholic Conference is a co-sponsor of the event with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Des Moines Area Religious Council. Go to www.iowareligiousfreedomday.org for more information. You can download the event flier here.