President, Congress Asked to Disavow Bias Claim in Report

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A letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders asks them to “renounce publicly” a contentious sentence in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ report that equates religious freedom with discrimination.

The letter, dated Oct. 7 and released Oct. 12, was signed by 17 religious leaders, including two U.S. Catholic bishops.

The sentence was written by commission chairman Martin Castro and was incorporated into the 306-page report issued Sept. 8. It said, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.

“We understand that people of good faith can disagree about the relationship between religious liberty and anti-discrimination laws in our country, and how that relationship should best be structured,” said the letter, released in Washington by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “These questions have to do with issues critical to the common good such as marriage, the family, contraception, abortion and the source of human dignity.

“At the same time, we are one in demanding that no American citizen or institution be labeled by their government as bigoted because of their religious views, and dismissed from the political life of our nation for holding these views. And yet that is precisely what the Civil Rights Commission report does.” 

The letter said, “There should be no place in our government for such a low view of our First Freedom—the first of our civil rights—least of all from a body dedicated to protecting them all.” —CNS

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