Religious Freedom Week to be celebrated June 22-29

Bonnie Toombs wants to make sure the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita don’t take their religious freedom for granted.

That liberty cannot be maintained if the people of the country don’t understand what religious freedom is, said Toombs, the director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office.

“Every week here in the United States we’re hearing about events or legislation that would take our religious freedom away,” Toombs said.

To be “fully alive” as Christian disciples – as Bishop Carl A. Kemme has called us to be, she said, “we have to be able to live our faith outside of the parish. We should be able to live our faith and do those things our faith calls us to do beyond the walls in which we worship.”

With that in mind, she said, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set June 22-29 as Religious Freedom Week: Strength in Hope.

We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted she said, adding that Christians around the globe are dying because they are practicing their faith.

“We need to be aware of what is going on in the world,” Toombs said, “and to realize what a gift religious freedom is.”

Not only can we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and work to fulfill the other corporal works of mercy, she said, “we can talk about our God outside the walls of our churches.”

One piece of legislation that would regulate religious freedom was introduced in March in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Equality Act isn’t about equality

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi introduced H.R. 5, the “Equality Act,” which would add the new terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” in federal civil rights laws.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the legislation would have wide-reaching consequences for both employment and delivery of service standards in religiously affiliated schools, shelters, foster care and adoption agencies, potentially houses of worship, and other facilities and ministries.

For example, the act would amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act so that any recipient of federal funds, such as schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, would be affected.

The four chairmen of the USCCB, one of whom is Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, said in a statement that the act “regulates a huge new swath of religious activity and facilities as ‘public accommodations’ and transforms the conditions by which hundreds of thousands of faith-based entities partner with the federal government to serve the common good. It accomplishes these goals while bringing the daunting power of the federal government to bear against religious people and groups with non-conforming views about marriage, sexuality, and gender.”

Event planned for September

Toombs said that the Diocese of Wichita and the Church of Latter Day Saints are planning to host a joint religious freedom event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Wichita State University Metroplex. Details are being work out and will be announced this summer.

Religious Freedom Week activities

Here is a list of events and suggested activities for the faithful to celebrate Religious Freedom Week.

Saturday, June 22: Kick-off Mass 5:30 p.m., St. Catherine of Siena Church, followed by adoration with Wichita Adore Ministries.

Sunday, June 23: Pray for Christians in the Middle East, especially those under attack. Action: Donate funds to the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Charities to help groups beyond our borders.

Monday, June 24: Pray the rosary for those in the military who protect our freedom.

Tuesday, June 25: Recite the Litany for Freedom with family and friends at home or at a parish gathering.

Wednesday, June 26: Host a Catholic movie night with family and friends at home or at the parish.

Thursday, June 27: Celebrate Marriage Day, honor traditional marriage, and remember the right of religious freedom. Reaffirming a shared witness. Visit the USCCB website for A Prayer for Marriage.

Friday, June 28: Have a meatless Friday: fast and pray for religious freedom.

Saturday, June 29: Pray for dignity and that the right to religious freedom of incarcerated persons would be respected. Action: Learn more about the Diocese of Wichita’s St. Dismas Ministry to the incarcerated.