The vitality of the American faith owes much to the idea of religious freedom. Yet any religious leaders I know are very concerned about increasing encroachments their work by litigation and courts. In addition, media commentators and liticians are calling for greater regulatory control over religious institutions.
The problem has noticeably hurt the Catholic Church , but many others are being fected as well. Many worry that through lawsuits , American religious institutions ay finally surrender their independence and submit to governmental control.
It is true that pastors dare not permit their facilities to be used for child care ithout careful thought, lest they expose their worship communities to massivenancial liability. Lay religious teachers have had to undergo extensive training ingal matters, and the possibility of court appearances is never far from their minds.inisters are being asked to report family issues to social welfare offices ratheran deal with them as matters of internal church governance.
Is the fear of lawsuits chipping away at the religious freedom that has been at e core of the American idea? Many people fear precisely this. It is a legitimateestion, and we are right to be concerned. I have my doubts, however, that newgislation is necessary to protect churches. The problem came about due togligence on all sides, and the real solution admits of no easy political solution.
More than ever, American religious institutions must zealously guard their ghts and independence from governmental control. They must behave responsi-y so as to show that self-governance works. Every institution in society thatpects to manage itself—whether families, businesses, or houses of worship—ust strive to be beyond reproach in its financial and moral decision making.
The American people need to be educated about the contribution that religious eedom makes to the world. And it is this education that goes to the very core ofe mission of the Acton Institute, which you have so generously supported.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico