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Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day 7

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Religious bodies also have the right not
to be hindered in their public teaching and witness
to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written
word. However, in spreading religious faith and in
introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all
times to refrain from any manner of action which might
seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion
that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially
when dealing with poor or uneducated people.
Such a manner of action would have to be considered
an abuse of one’s own right and a violation of the
rights of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious
freedom that religious bodies should not be
prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special
value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization
of society and the inspiration of the whole of
human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and
the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the
right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish
educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations,
under the impulse of their own religious sense.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4
December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Seven

While the Council Fathers insist that religious bodies
must be free to teach and bear witness to their faith,
they equally stress that this freedom must never be
abused. It is not only governments that can deny their
freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs,
religions should not force others, physically or psychologically,
to convert. Rather, each person’s dignity
and freedom must be maintained. The accepting of
religious beliefs must be an act of freedom, otherwise
it is done not because it is believed to be true but
rather out of fear and force. The right to profess and
proclaim one’s own faith cannot violate the same
right of another.

That being said, religious bodies should be free to
provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and
why it would be of value for others to believe what
they believe. They should also be free to address how
their beliefs contribute to the good of society.
What contemporary examples are there of religious
bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread
their faith or hindering others from exercising their
faith? What contributions does the Catholic Church
make to society and culture?


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