The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Listening to Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” while watching fireworks with friends and family always seems to bring a tear to my eye. This year I celebrated by exercising multiple constitutional rights, including going to Mass in the morning, going to a shooting range, blowing things up, and drinking some beer. I even managed to avoid having to quarter any British soldiers against my will (thank you 3rd amendment!).
This year’s Independence Day was also a little sobering. I fear that the freedoms we celebrate today may not be there for the coming generations. This past Monday the Supreme Court gave a narrow victory to religious people saying that, in certain narrow cases, we don’t have to pay for abortion, sterilization, and contraception. Yet, something so obvious as this, something so fundamental to the freedom of religion, carried the day by only a 5-4 margin. What’s even more alarming is that the most important issues in our society are being decided in courtrooms, by unelected rulers. The Executive and Judicial branches of our government, designed to be the weakest branches, now rule supreme. One can argue that we are no longer a republic.
This past Monday I admit that I celebrated a little to hear the Supreme Court’s decision. We’ve been losing so many of these battles in the courts. Yet, I was also sad that I have been reduced to the seemingly helpless position of waiting for the opinion of a few people on a court to decide the fate of our country. Hardly ever do we see a rally at the U.S. Capitol, the people’s house. No, we are constantly gathering outside the Supreme Court building, praying that the all-wise rulers from on high will benevolently grant us our rights.
On this Independence Day weekend, I look back and am grateful, grateful to have been raised in the time of some of the greatest moments in this country. I pray for our future. We can’t simply look to Washington to fix our problems. The real problems are in the hearts of each and every American. This country was founded on the idea that “we the people” are people of virtue. We are a nation of people that have time and again been willing to sacrifice our own interests and even our lives for the greater good of our country and of the world. I fear that we have now become a nation of selfish navel-gazers who only look out for ourselves and try to get as much as we can. No system of government can protect us from a citizenry that lacks virtue, nor can such a nation long endure.
It’s been two and a half years since the HHS mandate came down. Monday’s Supreme Court decision closes a certain chapter in the fight that began that day. There are more battles surrounding the mandate still making their way through the courts, but perhaps things may briefly head in the right direction on this issue. Two and half years ago the bishops of the United States came together with people of all faiths to defend our religious freedom. That Sunday I read a letter from Archbishop Naumann and gave a homily on religious freedom. I just listened to it again. I invite you to listen to it again as well. Then go listen to Lee Greenwood and be thankful, thankful that we still have the freedom to work for a better future for this great country.