We hold these truths
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776)
These words from the Declaration of Independence express the conviction of the founders of the American republic that there are truths deriving from the nature of man which can be easily known, and from which flow the essential rights of all human beings."
Although many of the founders were deists, meaning their belief in a Creator was philosophical (according to reason, like Aristotle's), not theological (according to faith, like St. Peter's), they nonetheless understood that rights derived from the reality of nature and not from the whim of governments or the opinions of the majority. In this their conviction expresses quite well the perennial Catholic understanding of the law of nature, or the natural law.
"… a city established on principles of nature would be wise as a whole." (Plato, Republic Bk. 4, died 348 B.C.)
"… the function of a ruler is to be the guardian of justice, and if of justice, then of equality. A just ruler seems to make nothing out of his office; for he does not allot to himself a larger share of things generally good, unless it be proportionate to his merits; so that he labors for others, which accounts for the saying mentioned above, that 'Justice is the good of others." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Bk. 7, died 322 B.C.)
"Not only right and wrong are distinguished by nature, but also in general all honorable and disgraceful things. For nature makes common understandings for us and starts forming them in our minds so that honorable things are based on virtue, disgraceful things on vices" (Cicero, On the Laws, died 43 B.C.)
"All [of the Declaration's] authority rests … on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.." (Thomas Jefferson, "Letter to Henry Lee," May 8, 1825]
"[the principles of the American Revolution] are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke; the principles of nature and eternal reason…." (John Adams, A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin, in 1754, to the Present Time, 1774)
To this reasoned conviction in natural law and rights, the Church adds belief in Divine Revelation and the rights and obligations that go with that belief. Revelation does not change what reason can discover about the law of nature, but confirms it and enlightens regarding its basis.
In this section, therefore, both the Church's teaching with regards to Religious Liberty, and the other questions which arise in connection with it, will be treated according to both reason and revelation. That is, each will be presented according to the law of nature (on which our constitutional order was founded), and according to the Judeo-Christian faith which is the religious patrimony of most Americans.
"My friends, this is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Baptist issue. This is not a Jewish, a Mormon or a Muslim issue. This is an American issue. And we, the people, have the right to live our faith proudly and openly in the public square."
--EWTN President & CEO Michael P. Warsaw
"Let us not forget that these are rights not given to us by governments. They are rights given to us by God. Let's not stand by and let those rights be chipped away. Let's resolve here now to continue to stand up and to defend our right to religious freedom whenever and wherever it is challenged. "
--EWTN President & CEO Michael P. Warsaw
"I die the king's good servant and God's first."
--St. Thomas More, on the scaffold, July 6, 1535
"What we ask is nothing more than the right to follow our consciences as we live out our teaching,"
"I would agree with St. Augustine that 'An unjust law is no law at all."
--Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
O GOD OUR CREATOR, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.