by Kevin Dawson
Responding to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ (USCCR) recent report “Peaceful Coexistence,” Archbishop William E. Lori rebuked the notion that claims for religious liberty were “code words” to allow for discrimination.
In a statement released yesterday, Lori, who is archbishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore, reminded the USCCR’s chairman, Martin Castro, that “[m]en and women of faith were many in number during the most powerful marches of the civil rights era,” referring to the contributions of prominent religious leaders such as Rev. Martin Luther King. Lori also called Castro to account for his “reckless” statements which the archbishop said “reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work.”
Lori did not limit his criticism to a Christian perspective, either, but included the concerns of orthodox Jews and Muslim communities as well, saying that Castro was equating these faith communities en masse “to fringe segregationists from the civil rights era.” And with later references to Dr. King, as well as Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the archbishop reminded the USCCR that Americans motivated by religious beliefs have made leading contributions during some of the most important periods of United States history.
Finally, Archbishop Lori hit the nail on the head as he blasted Castro’s claim that religion is being used solely to obtain exemptions from nondiscrimination laws, “such as the right to marry”:
The vast majority of those who speak up for religious liberty are merely asking for the freedom to serve others as our faith asks of us. We ask that the work of our institutions be carried out by people who believe in our mission and respect a Christian witness. This is no different from a tobacco control organization not wishing to hire an advocate for smoking or a civil rights organization not wanting to hire someone with a history of racism or an animal rights group wishing to hire only vegetarians.
We respect those who disagree with what we teach. Can they respect us? We advocate for the dignity of all persons, a dignity that includes a life free from violence and persecution and that includes fair access to good jobs and safe housing. People of faith are a source of American strength. An inclusive and religiously diverse society should make room for them.
Kevin Dawson is the Operations Manager at American Principles Project.