What are those demands? What are those moral truths? Lying is wrong. Theft of what rightly belongs to another is wrong. Everyone must honor promises, vows, and legal contracts. All must be free to seek truth in the depths of conscience, without social, cultural, or governmental coercion.
And the inviolability of every innocent human life must be respected from its beginning to its end.
These fundamental moral truths can be known by anyone willing to think carefully. Recognizing them does not require any prior theological commitments (although belief in the God of the Bible certainly shortens the path toward those truths). These truths are, if you will, built into us. We do not invent them; we discover them.
The fundamental democratic premise of the radical, inalienable, civil equality of all citizens is at the root of the American constitutional order--the American way of being a political community. That premise is no pious fiction, no noble lie. It can be "demonstrated" and defended, by reason. And that defense leads inexorably to the right to life as the primordial human right, and the right of religious freedom as the "first freedom" in the political order.
In defending religious freedom and the right to life from conception until natural death, U.S. Catholics are not just defending what is "ours." We defend America. We seek to give America new birth of freedom, rightly understood. We act, not as sectarians, but as free citizens. We act on behalf of all, and on behalf of truth.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
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