MIAMI (ChurchMilitant.com) - Rising intolerance of Christian belief is driving faithful Catholics from the public square, as well as from their jobs, according to the head of religious liberty for U.S. bishops.
Miami's Abp. Thomas Wenski, the new Chairman of Religious Liberty for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), declared on Tuesday that a new wave of anti-Catholic sentiment is blanketing the United States — forcing believers out of public life.
Hostility to Catholicism is "treating us as somehow less worthy of full participation in the benefits of American life," Wenski told Catholic News Agency (CNA). "We're not second-class citizens because we are people of faith."
Wenski gave various instances of this legal or "soft" persecution which include:
- Laws forbidding public funding of religious schools (now overruled by the Supreme Court)
- Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate keeping Little Sisters of the Poor in court
- Removing 21-year-old Jack Denton from a government position at Florida State University for defending Church teaching
Regarding this week's Supreme Court decision on public funding of religious schools Wenski admits, "The Supreme Court got it right."
In this case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court in a 5–4 decision ruled that Montana's state constitution discriminated against religious schools by barring their access to taxpayer-funded scholarships.
Wenski said such laws contain an inherent bias that he claims is not found in other legal systems around the world.
"France doesn't have any problem supporting parents who send their children to Catholic schools," observed Wenski. "The same is true of Canada, Australia, etc. Such laws have never really been neutral, as they pretend to be."
Regarding the case of Denton, his removal from a student government position was owing to private comments he made on Catholic topics that subsequently were leaked to the public. His comments were on abortion, transgenderism, as well as a statement by him that Catholics should not support Black Lives Matter.
With the advice of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Denton is now appealing to the university's supreme court to get his job back. Denton claims his removal violated the university's nondiscrimination policy, the Student Government Association policy, and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
And in the ongoing case involving Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters are still awaiting their verdict regarding the HHS contraceptive mandate. Wenski says he hopes that Tuesday's decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue will bode well for the Sisters. This is yet another form of religious freedom, he believes, that's at stake.
Religious freedom outside the United States is also under threat, according to Wenski. He contrasts the "soft despotism" represented in the above cases with the "hard despotism" in regions such as the Middle East and China where Christians are imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith.
Recalling the premodern meaning of freedom that's still held by the Catholic Church, Wenski says these cases "really deal with the freedom to serve." This freedom, he believes, must include the freedom of Catholics to live out their faith in the public square.
Many instances of anti-Catholic bigotry have made headlines in recent years. One notable case involved President Donald Trump's choice of justices for federal court. After being nominated for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump, the University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett was brought before the Senate panel in 2017 to give a breakdown of her legal philosophy. What unfolded, however, was a grilling of her Catholic faith principles.
Diane Feinstein, the panel's ranking Democrat, infamously stated, "When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you."
Feinstein continued, voicing her concern about progressive positions: "And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country."
In 2018, Sen. Kamala Harris and other Senate Democrats took an accusatory tone in written questions to Brian Buescher, due to his involvement in Knights of Columbus. Buescher, however, overcame the bias and is now a federal judge.
Similarly, during Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation also in 2018, Sen. Cory Booker drilled him about the firing and hiring of homosexuals.
"Do we have a legal right to fire someone just because they're gay, in your opinion?" asked Booker.
Related to that question, the Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of practicing homosexuals and gender-confused people. Many experts believe the High Court's ruling has tied the hands of concerned employers in this regard.
Wenski also noted the unfair treatment that people of faith received during the Wuhan virus crisis. The archbishop insisted that governments cannot target religious groups unfairly. Many believe government leaders, largely Democrats, did so by allowing large protests and other gatherings in public while at the same time placing strict limits on the number of worshippers who could attend public Masses.
"When you see that disparate treatment, then you have to ask whether that is because of some religious animus, and that's where we have to be very careful," observed Wenski.