OTTAWA, ON May 15, 2012 – The permanent council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently issued a pastoral letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion. The CCRL recommends a complete reading of the document, which summarizes numerous current concerns.

The letter emphasizes the importance of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, noting that they are “essential for ensuring the common good.” It encourages people, “especially those in professions where these rights may be at risk,” to defend those rights. “Where (religious freedom) is protected, peaceful co-existence, prosperity and participation in cultural, social and political life flourish. But when it is threatened, all other rights are weakened and society suffers.”

The letter cites research showing that more than 70 per cent of the world’s countries impose restrictions on freedom of religion, and that worldwide, 75 per cent of all religious persecution is directed against Christians.  Within Canada, the bishops write: “At times, believers are being legally compelled to exercise their profession without reference to their religious or moral convictions, and even in opposition to them,” the letter states, citing pharmacists who are forced to fill prescriptions for contraceptives against their religious or conscientious beliefs, and marriage commissioners who must resign if they refuse to officiate at same sex ceremonies.

It discusses several other challenges including those in which the League has been active, such as conflict for doctors who are expected to refer patients for abortions and other procedures that conflict with their beliefs, the right of parents to choose their children’s religious and moral education and the misuse of human rights commissions and tribunals to advance social and political agendas.

Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion, CCCB May 14 2012
National Post article, May 15 2012