WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2011 ( – Americans must be on guard against the government’s tendency to treat Christians’ right to stand for the truth as a “carveout” granted or taken away by legislators at will, said Bishop William Lori of the diocese of Bridgeport on Wednesday.


“Increasingly, religious freedom in our country is viewed as a carveout, an exception built into laws that are otherwise an affront to human dignity,” said Lori, addressing hundreds at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., during his keynote address.

“This tends to reduce religious freedom to a grant by the state, rather than an inalienable right by the Creator,” said Lori, who is supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. “What is granted by the state can be taken away by the state.”

The prayer breakfast also hosted Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Live Action founder Lila Rose, who both gave brief comments. It took as its theme the celebration of the beatification of “Pope John Paul the Great” on May 1.

Lori hearkened back to the tactics of Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, who faced the “full range of threats to human dignity and freedom” from both the political right and left. Wojtyla, he said, practiced an “astute mix of subtlety and public pressure which [Communist] authorities came so to fear.” “But what he never did, and what we must never do, is compromise the truth, because in so doing we’d compromise our freedom,” said Lori.

The bishop named President Obama’s health care reform law as a particularly dangerous example of the government’s flippant treatment of religious freedom on critical issues, saying the law “calls into question the ethical and religious freedom of health professionals and faith-based health care institutions.”

To rectify this, Lori urged that three pro-life bills moving through the U.S. House of Representatives – the Protect Life Act, the Abortion Nondescrimination Act, and the Rights of Conscience Act – “be swiftly enacted and signed into law.”

After all, said the prelate, it is only because of America’s strong tradition of religious freedom that the country has been insulated “from the kinds of human rights abuses that marked the French Revolution or the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.”

“John Paul II’s witness to human freedom and dignity should strike a chord in our nation, where religious freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and where, as a people, we have always believed that God, and not the state, is the source of those rights,” he said.