As American citizens, as religious believers, we hold that out first freedom is religious freedom, the basis for all freedoms. Religious liberty deals with the sanctuary of one's conscience before God. However, more and more in our country of the land of the free, there is an erosion of religious freedom. We must remember always that the price of freedom is vigilance. Religious liberty, our first freedom in the Bill of Rights needs a strong defense today.

Religious liberty is not only the right to go to church on Sunday or pray at home, but to express our belief in all areas of life. The voices in society that want religious believers to get out of our public life and public policy, have forgotten the contribution American believers to get made to our history, for example, in the fight for independence, in the crusade against slavery, and in the civil rights movement.

As believers, we must remind our selves that while religion is personal, it is never private. We are called to witness in the public arena to what it means to be a people of God, sharing those truths and values that flow from faith and reason, expressed in the work of education, health care, social services and charity.

Religious liberty is not a conservative or liberal issue, nor a Republican or Democrat issue. It is that most basic human rights given to us by God.

Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer

Bishop of the San Angelo Catholic Diocese