FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Two-week prayer campaign to “focus on real threats to our first and fundamental freedom,” archbishop says

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 14, 2013) – In the face of “real threats to our first and fundamental freedom,” Catholics in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will join a two-week, interfaith prayer campaign to promote renewed respect for life, marriage and religious liberty, Archbishop Paul Coakley said today.

Initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the second annual Fortnight for Freedom begins next Friday, June 21, and concludes Thursday, July 4. For 14 days, Catholics and other people of faith throughout the United States will offer concentrated prayer and acts of penance.

This year, the prayers of the faithful will especially focus on marriage, as the Fortnight for Freedom will likely coincide with relevant, marriage-related decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In March 2013, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases that pertain to the legal definition of marriage. In deciding these cases, the nine Supreme Court justices will ultimately decide whether any statute that defines marriage as between one man and one woman is constitutional and at what level.

“The long-term effects on religious liberty and conscience rights of such court rulings will be far-reaching for our Catholic institutions, as well as for many other institutions,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Through the Fortnight, the bishops and lay Catholics also aim to renew opposition to the so-called “contraception mandate” issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as a part of the implementation of the 2010 federal health care reform law.

The mandate – which is slated to take effect Aug. 1 – requires employers to provide their employees with health insurance plans that cover contraception and abortifacients – regardless of whether those employers consider contraception and abortion to be morally wrong.

“There has been an insistent and reductive tendency in our society toward equating religious liberty with the freedom to worship,” the archbishop continued. “Religious freedom certainly includes this freedom, but it is much more. It also includes the freedom for private individuals to live their faith in the workplace and in the public square and to advance the truths and values that flow from faith publicly. It includes the rights of religious institutions such as schools, health care facilities and social service organizations to carry on their activities in full accord with their faith convictions and without government interference.”

At 7 p.m., June 21, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Archbishop Coakley – joined by Catholics from across the archdiocese – will celebrate a Mass to open the second annual Fortnight for Freedom.

Bishops across the country will similarly lead the faithful in their dioceses in the observance of the Fortnight.

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