US bishops launch religious freedom texting campaign

By Michelle Bauman

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Texting. Credit: Alex Ragone (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The United States bishops announced a new text message campaign allowing people nationwide to support the Fortnight for Freedom and publicly defend religious liberty at home and abroad.

“Across America, our right to live out our faith is being threatened,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

He encouraged everyone in favor of religious freedom to “join the movement” by sending a “simple, meaningful” text in support of liberty.

Starting June 21, Catholics and others who support religious freedom are urged to text the word “Freedom” to 377377. Spanish speakers can text “Libertad” to the same number.

Upon doing so, individuals will receive a response asking for their email address and zip code, allowing the bishops’ conference to contact them about religious freedom initiatives throughout the Fortnight for Freedom and beyond.

The fortnight, announced by the U.S. bishops, is a two-week period of prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty. It begins on June 21 and runs through July 4, Independence Day.

Activities at the national, diocesan and parish levels will commemorate the fortnight by highlighting both “the Christian and American heritage of liberty.”

Members of other faiths are encouraged to join with Catholics in the initiative as well. The call for a Fortnight for Freedom came in response to growing threats to religious liberty within the U.S.

The Catholic bishops and other groups have voiced concern over a recent federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

They have also warned about a Justice Department legal brief challenging the “ministerial exception” that protects religious groups’ ability to choose their own ministers without government involvement, as well as recent federal attempts to require agencies helping refugees to offer abortion and contraception.

In addition, they have observed the problems that “gay marriage” poses for religious individuals and organizations – including wedding photographers, reception halls and adoption agencies – that object to such unions.

In announcing the text message campaign, Archbishop Lori pointed to threats ranging “from Washington’s forcing Catholic institutions to provide services that contradict their beliefs, to state governments’ prohibiting religious charities from serving the most vulnerable.”

He voiced support for the text message campaign as a way to participate in efforts to restore and defend religious liberty. 

The bishops’ conference intends to communicate with supporters via text message about twice per month, offering regular information on ways to protect religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

A bulletin insert about the campaign is available in both Spanish and English. The one-page insert notes threats to religious freedom both at home and abroad. It observes that Catholics are “constantly called to live out our faith in our daily lives.”

“In our charities, we comfort the sick, feed the hungry, care for the poor, and protect life. In the marketplace, our values guide us,” it explains. “We strive everywhere to practice what we preach.”

“These rights are fundamental. They belong to each and every human being,” the insert declares. “We cannot let them be trampled. We cannot remain silent.”

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