Are the Feds Targeting Catholics?
Last month some of the young people from my parish in South Carolina were ejected from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum because they were wearing woolen hats with a Pro-Life motto.
A Violation of Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech
The kids, with their chaperones, were visiting the museum after taking part in the annual March for Life. First they were harassed by museum staff, and when the students said they had to wear their hats so they could be identified in the thousands-strong march they were told the museum was a “neutral zone.” Later a hefty security guard approached them rubbing his hands and gloating, “You guys have made my day.” He berated them for the message on their hats and made them leave the museum.
The Smithsonian’s personnel were clearly violating our religious freedom and freedom of speech. A statement from the museum agreed that the behavior of their staff contravened their policies and protocols and said training was given so that it would not happen again.
Not an Isolated Incident
This incident might seem like a tempest in a teapot — a simple case of an enthusiastic employee overstepping the mark — if there were not other signals that the powers that be in Washington D.C. have Catholics in their cross hairs.
In an important new book The Coming Christian Persecution, Thomas D. Williams chronicles other recent, public and egregious attacks on Catholics. When Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was being interviewed for the job she was specifically berated for holding true to her Catholic beliefs. Senator Dianne Feinstein famously sneered, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”
In 2018 Brian C. Buescher was nominated to the U.S. District Court for Nebraska. Buescher is a member of the Catholic men’s society called The Knights of Columbus. He was attacked for this by Senators Hirono and (now VP) Kamala Harris. They disliked the Knights of Columbus’ views on same sex marriage and abortion — views which are simply faithful to Catholic teaching.
FBI is Surveilling Catholics
Then this week it is reported in this article that a secret intelligence memo to the FBI recommends surveillance on traditionalist Catholics because some of their number may have anti-Semitic, racist or anti-LGBTQ opinions. If this is true, the implications are truly frightening not only for traditionalist Catholics, but for all Americans.
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It may well be true that there are some individuals within the traditionalist Catholic community that hold racist, anti-Semitic or anti-LGBTQ attitudes, but this could be said of any group of Americans. Individual opinions are not against the law, and whole groups should never be in suspicion because of the personal opinions of particular individuals — no matter how odious those opinions are.
Arrested for Praying Silently
In the UK at this time there are two cases in which individuals have been arrested for praying silently outside abortion clinics where the state has erected “safety zones.” Both individuals were simply standing within the zone praying silently. They were not protesting. They were not intimidating anyone. They were not even holding placards or speaking their prayers out loud. They were praying silently. In their minds. They were still arrested.
Americans Must Defend Their Rights of Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech
The UK does not have laws protecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech to the same extent that we do in the USA, but what we are now witnessing in the UK may come to the USA if we are not vigilant in defending our rights. This is why the families of the students in my parish have instigated a lawsuit against the Smithsonian. Not to make piles of money, but to defend and uphold the rights all Americans hold dear.
Fr Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book The Way of the Wilderness Warrior uses the classical hero’s quest to give a plan for spiritual growth.