• Dignitatis Humanae provides that “the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God.” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 3.) Therefore, individuals are “not to be forced to act in manner contrary to [their] conscience” nor “restrained from acting in accordance with [their] conscience . . . .” (Id.)
  • The Second Vatican Council also “declare[d] that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2.)
  • Further, Dignitatis Humanae provides that “[r]eligious communities [] have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own Ministers . . . .” (Dignitatis Humanae, No. 4.)

Where are the roots of religious liberty?

Religious liberty is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one of us by our Creator. Religious liberty is also prior to the state itself. It is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and that can be taken away at will.

Blessed Pope John Paul II: “[T]he most fundamental human freedom [is] that of practicing one’s faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for living.” (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 13 Jan. 1996, No. 9.)

Pope Benedict XVI: “[Religious freedom] is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, hisrelation with his Creator.” (Address to Diplomatic Corps, 10 Jan. 2011.)


"The distinction between Church and State, between God and Caesar, remains “fundamental to Christianity.” (Deus Caritas Est, No. 28.) The Church has “a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize.” (Id.)

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