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Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day 9

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The protection and promotion of the inviolable
rights of man ranks among the essential duties
of government. Therefore, government is to assume the
safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in
an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate
means. Government is also to help create conditions
favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order
that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their
religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and
also in order that society itself may profit by the moral
qualities of justice and peace which have their origin
in men’s faithfulness to God and to His holy will.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6
December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Nine
Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they
consider a very important issue. It is not simply that
governments should not deny or impede the religious
freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost
importance that they positively, through just laws, be
the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency—
religious or secular—within society would
seek to undermine the religious freedom of all.

While few today would consider this, the next point that the
Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments
should actually “help create conditions favorable
to the fostering of religious life.” While governments
do not control religions, they should recognize
their value and so promote their well-being. This
allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise
their religious rights and “fulfill their religious
duties.”

The government’s fostering the religious life
of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also,
the Council states, contributes to the good of society
as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding
and implementation of what contributes to justice
and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in
God, who desires the good of all.

How do governments protect and promote the
religious life of their citizens? Do governments take
this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does
the government foster religious life while respecting
the principle of separation of church and state?

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