In our ongoing reflection on Dignitatis Humanae of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers remind us that it is not enough for governments and society at large to not deny or impede religious freedom, but that it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no group - religious or secular - within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. They even go so far as to say that governments should actually "help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life", because of the values that people of faith bring to the common forum. While this thought process and premise of the Council Fathers of nearly fifty years ago is very valid, the reality is that we now live in an extremely secular society that probably would not accept the need of God nor the values that religious faith can bring to the common good.
As they continue, the Council Fathers speak of the equality of dignity, value and worth found in every individual and religious group, and stresses the need under law to maintain that equality. We as Catholics in these United States have not always been given an equal shake: we were suspected of foreign alligience (even into the sixty's with John Kennedy), we have been persecuted for our beliefs and our ethnic backgrounds by the Know-Nothings and the Klan, and we have been discriminated against in the past for jobs and opportunities. It was done over many years and in many lands with a prejudice against those of the Jewish faith, reaching epic proportions at the time of the Holocaust. The many genocides that have taken place for ethnic, economic, tribal, political reasons are also religious in nature. But even today there are those that do not subscribe to the thought and teaching of the Council in regard to other religious groups - Muslims to name just one (especially following 9/11 and our lumping all together in the same fearful mold as those terrorists). We have not listened to the wisdom of the Council and we continue to suffer for that failure.