Why Respect is at the Heart of Religious Liberty

It’s Religious Freedom Week, a time when our bishops call on us to pray, reflect, and take action on matters of religious liberty. It is a time to learn about issues that impact religious freedom both at home and abroad, and how we can structure our society in a way that secures the rights of all.

A group who knows more about the fight for religious liberty than most are the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were mandated by the government’s Health and Human Services department to provide contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans, even though doing so goes against their religious beliefs. The Little Sisters recently won their legal appeal on this matter, but there are other groups who are fighting similar cases in states around the country.

Sister Constance Veit, Communications Director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, stopped by Morning Air® to discuss religious liberty, and what lies at the heart of the struggle to protect it in our society.

“I was very struck by the court’s decision in the recent case involving the baking of wedding cakes,” Sister Veit said. “He basically won because the court found that in his case there had been clear evidence of hostility toward his sincere religious beliefs. And I think, unfortunately, that is at the root of a lot of religious issues in our country today. Whatever the issue may be, unfortunately, I think there is this underlying anti-religious sentiment in our country.”

And what is causing this disdain and hostility toward traditional religion? Sister Veit said, “At the basis of it is, unfortunately, a general disrespect for others in our society.”

Sister Veit explained that a lack of respect for one another is the basis of the tension between religious and secular people, but also that respect is the answer to our struggles with these issues.

“We are all created in God’s image and likeness, we all have equal human dignity,” Sister Veit reminded us. “And if we really took that seriously across the board, then I think some of the very mean-spirited rhetoric that goes on in the public square would really disappear. Because if we truly respected the other as a person, despite our differing viewpoints or opinions, I think that would color our dialogues very differently.”

Sister Veit suggested that if we want to show the importance of religious liberty, we should let our actions speak first, saying, “I think we might be at a point in society where words and rhetoric no longer suffice to convince people. But our words, our charitable actions, the compassion we show toward others – I believe that if we as Catholics really took love of our neighbor to heart and lived it out, we could change the hearts and minds of people through our example.”

Listen to the full conversation with Sister Constance Veit below:

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Eastern/3:00 – 6:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.


Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.