Religious diversity strengthens religious freedom

Sixty-five students, two years, fifteen faith communities, one freedom. This may be one way to summarize the numbers behind an eye-opening experience for dozens of Drake University students who set out to understand various religious traditions found in Iowa.

Their project turned into a book titled, “A Spectrum of Faith: Religions of the World in America’s Heartland,” which students hope will help people gain a greater appreciation and understanding for what motivates others to live and worship as they do.

A few of the students associated with this project, along with their professor, Dr. Timothy Knepper, will share some of their experiences and impressions as part of the fourth annual Iowa Religious Freedom Day Celebration in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday, April 13, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. A short program will feature the students during the noon hour. The public is invited to attend a non-partisan event to learn from the students and other speakers about the value of religious diversity and religious freedom.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of the Des Moines Diocese will open the short program at noon after Dowling Catholic High School students sing the national anthem. At the 2016 celebration, Bishop Pates stressed the concept that “the cornerstone of freedom is religious liberty, for it speaks to the freedom that should be inherent in each person and guarantees the expression of that which is at the heart of individual conscience and conviction.”

At a time when the term religious freedom itself is either misused or maligned, event organizers hope the public discussion will promote dialogue, respect, and cooperation when it comes to ensuring space for faith in a pluralistic and civil society.

For more information about the April 13th event, visit

Religious Liberty: “It’s a claim about what a human being is”

The only way to insure respectful and flourishing human communities is to respect a notion of the human person that integrates all aspects of their humanity.

This year’s “Fortnight for Freedom: Witnesses to Freedom” will take place from June 21 to July 4, 2016.

The USCCB has published a video entitled “The Right to Religious Freedom” that explores the foundation of Church teaching on religious liberty. The video details the importance of a constitutional protection so basic to our understanding of the person and human freedom that we forget it can be eroded and diminished and our nation’s character altered unless we protect it.

The video highlights the contribution of the Second Vatican Council document, Dignitatis Humanae, in illuminating the issues at stake in the current Supreme Court challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor. In interviews, the video details how a nations’ position on the right to religious freedom is the major test of how it interprets human rights and government authority.

According to Church teaching, the view of the person that denies the vital spiritual component of each individual denies their dignity and freedom by denying reality. When a government adopts the narrow view of the human person for its own ends, and its own authority, it can ultimately justify denying all individual freedoms.

NCHLA issues action alert on bill to limit religious liberty

The U.S. bishops’ partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, has issued an alert in opposition to S. 2578. The U.S. Senate may vote on this bill as early as this week. The “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578) would not only reverse the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, but go far beyond. S. 2578 negates any right that employers, insurers or employees may have, under Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandated coverage.

See the NCHLA Action Alert

This misnamed measure could potentially empower federal officials to mandate abortion or any other item in all health plans, forcing Americans to violate their deeply held religious and moral beliefs on respect for human life.

Fortnight for Freedom

The Diocese of Des Moines is participating in the third annual Fortnight for Freedom, a national effort to advance a movement for life, marriage and religious liberty through prayer, penance and sacrifice. In Des Moines, the fortnight will be marked with a holy hour, keynote speaker and reception beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 22 at St. Ambrose Cathedral. All are invited.

The Fortnight for Freedom runs June 21-July 4 with the goal of emphasizing the fundamental right of religious freedom. 

Keynote speaker Omar Gutierrez, of the Archdiocese of Omaha, will talk in English and Spanish on the Church’s social teaching and human dignity.

“He was a natural fit for this year’s theme, which is ‘Freedom to Serve,’” said Adam Storey, diocesan director of Marriage and Family Life and a co-organizer of the event.

For more information, go to or