What sets us apart from the rest of creation and makes us different from any other species that exists in our world? We have always understood that difference as flowing from the fact that we have created "in the image and the likeness of God" ... that we are endowed with reason and free will by our Creator ... that we can think and know and love. This is where our dignity as human beings lies. It comes not from ourselves, not from some earthy power, not from the state or the academic or philosophical world, but from a higher power that we recognize as having been revealed as God. As such, we are commanded by nature itself and bound by moral obligation to seek the truth, especially truth regarding God. Not only seek the truth, but to embrace and follow the truth. That truth is an objective truth that transforms us, and not a truth formed by our desires or whims or limitations.
In Dignitatis Humanae from the Second Vatican Council [December 7, 1965], the Council Fathers state that individuals cannot fulfill our obligations for seeking the truth "unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom." They say that religious freedom is a right that is rooted in our very nature as human beings, and that no one has the right to impede this freedom as long as "the just requirements of public order are observed."
Religious Liberty is a guaranteed right given us in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. It says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." Thomas Jefferson said that "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority: (Letter to New London Methodist, 1809). In a very secular society like ours, religious freedom can easily be lost in the shuffle and relegated to the back burner "for the common good". We need to be informed, vigilant and resolved in our defense of religious liberty in our nation.