“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” Over Easter weekend the controversy between the Obama administration and the Church flared up once again. It seems to me that the focus is properly centering on the issue of who defines the meaning of “the free exercise of religion”?
What is the scope of the exercise of our religious faith? Is it confined to our places of worship, meaning that we are free to worship in our church buildings without governmental oversight and interference, or does it include schools wherein we teach, our charitable institutions and our hospitals? Furthermore, who decides the content of our faith response to God? Government officials or church leaders?
As Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ is worshipped not only in our churches were we pray but also in how we care for others in our surrounding world. Our faith tells us that we are sent, sent by the One who was sent, sent with the prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What we teach in our schools, colleges, and universities expresses our faith. How we care for others in our hospitals and social service agencies likes expresses our faith. This is central to the issue Catholics and members of other faith communities have with administration officials in Washington, D.C.
Hopefully the Justices of our Supreme Court will focus on that issue when they make their eventual decision.