The 4th of July, like Thanksgiving, is one of those holidays that all Americans can celebrate with equal enjoyment. Neither is weighted down by gift-giving, nor does either have specific religious ties (although I would argue that both require – at the very least – a nod to our Creator).
For most of us, the 4th has elements of family and friends, food and festivities, layered over a deep and profound love for our nation. Neighborhoods will see parades of children who've decorated their bikes with red, white and blue, cities will light up the skies with fireworks as we celebrate our lives as Americans.
At some point during the revelry, I suspect that many of us will spend a moment or two reflecting on our American freedoms. We dare not ever take for granted that we can, in relative peace and safety, write and speak whatever we wish, worship (or not) where and as we please, travel wherever we wish throughout our nation without severe impediment. And we can freely disagree. The Supreme Court has recently handed down a ruling regarding the HHS mandate and the Hobby Lobby stores owned by the Green family. Some see the court's decision as a lessening of rights, whereas many of us believe the court has upheld an American freedom that says we cannot be impelled to violate our conscience.
In Scripture, Peter says, "Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil" (1 Pet. 2:16.) St. John Paul II says it this way: "…when freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis; and the ground is laid for society to be at the mercy of the unrestrained will of individuals or the oppressive totalitarianism of public authority." (Evangelium Vitae, 96)
The good people I work with at the Acton Institute believe that freedom – based on objective truth, which is rational and merciful – is meant to be upheld and celebrated. My hope is that all Americans will believe this as well. Thank you for your continued support of the Acton Institute and I hope you can join us this October in Grand Rapids for our 24th Annual Dinner.
Rev. Robert Sirico, President