Cardinal George Addresses Religious Freedom in Speech at BYU

Catholics and Latter-day Saints are important partners in the defense of religious freedom in the public square. That was the message His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. delivered today at Brigham Young University to thousands of students, faculty and others tuning in by satellite and on the Internet. Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook, were present for the address, as was Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

In his address, Cardinal George explained that religious freedom cannot be reduced to just freedom of worship or even freedom of private conscience, but that individual and religious groups must have the right to exercise their influence in the public square.

“The lesson of American history is that churches and other religious bodies prosper in a nation and a social order that respects religious freedom and recognizes that civil government should never stand between the consciences and the religious practices of its citizens and Almighty God,” he said.

Speaking of the partnership Catholics and Mormons have in defending religious freedom, Cardinal George acknowledged that “sometimes our common advocacy will make one of us the target of retribution by intolerant elements” but emphasized that such actions should not deter religions from making their voices heard. “In the coming years, interreligious coalitions formed to defend the rights of conscience for individuals and religious institutions could become a vital bulwark against the tide of forces that work in our government and society to reduce religion to a purely private reality.”

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