Following an announcement by the U.S. Attorney General detailing 20 principles of religious liberty for all government agencies and executive departments to follow, the U.S. bishops have praised the government’s reaffirmation of religious freedom protections.
“The Attorney General’s guidance helpfully reaffirms that the law protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to conduct their operations in accordance with their religious mission,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement.
“The guidance also reaffirms that the federal government should never exclude religious organizations from competing on an equal footing for government grants or contracts, and religious entities should never be forced to change their religious character in order to participate in such programs,” he continued. “We appreciate the Attorney General’s clarification of these matters, which will protect faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve all those in need, including the homeless, immigrants, refugees, and students attending religious schools.”
The guidance was issued on Oct. 6 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to an executive order to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law.” The document highlights key issues surrounding religious freedom in the United States and points to the importance of religious freedom in the country, as well as existing laws and precedents which protect the fundamental right.
At the memo’s outset, the document notes that religious freedom “is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” The guidance reaffirms a broader definition of religious freedom, which has come under pressure as the previous Obama administration promoted the much narrower phrasing “freedom of worship.”