Speaking at the White House on the first day of his visit to the United States, Pope Francis touched on what has been an area of great concerns for Christians across our nation over the past few years – the right to religious liberty. As is necessary from a visiting dignitary of his stature, he referred to a domestic problem without directly criticizing his host:
Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.
Judging by the actions of the current administration, this was a necessary and pointed reminder. From forcing businesses to pay for contraceptive coverage to bankrupting companies who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings, it has been increasingly difficult to exercise religious freedom in America without serious consequences. And the courts have been a mixed bag, with the Supreme Court standing tall in Hobby Lobby but lower federal courts upholding massive fines against businesses refusing same-sex services. This battle will only continue in the years ahead.