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Why I Addressed the Awakening Conference and Why I Stand with the Freedom Federation

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As a Nation we have lost our moral compass. As a direct result, we are losing genuine freedom. The idea that we can separate moral issues from fiscal or international issues is wrong. There is a moral basis to every political and social concern - that includes economics and foreign policy. 

ORLANDO, FL (Catholic Online) - I arrived in Orlando Thursaday night and was greeted by the woman at the front desk of the hotel with the question, "Are you with the Liberty Group?" My answer came, without even a moment of reflection. "Yes I am!"

My friend, a man I admire, constitutional lawyer Matt Staver, invited me to speak at this conference. Matt is the Vice President of Liberty University. He is the Dean and a Professor of Law of Liberty University School of Law.

Matt is also the Founder, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel and the Director of the Liberty Center for Law and Policy. But most importantly, this evangelical Christian leader recognizes the urgency of the hour - and shares with me a conviction of our obligation to stand together. So, he invited this Catholic Deacon and Lawyer to speak at this conference being held at a Baptist Church.

It is a familiar role for me. I have worked alongside of evangelical Protestants for decades. Almost twenty five years ago, before it was as acceptable as it is now, I actually, you could say, "wrote the book on it". Then, several years later,I wrote another one

Now, after years of being in the trenches and the classroom, hopefully having learned a thing or two, I am writing a new book on the subject. I am inspired by our evangelical Catholic Pope Francis to undertake the project

The conference was entitled "The Awakening: Fighting for the Soul of America" It was sponsored by the Freedom Federation. I was a  founding member of the Freedom Federation when Matt sought to call a new generation of Christians together again, organizationally, to stand for up for moral values. You can find out more about the effort here.

The Awakening 2013 brings Christians together - from across the confessional spectrum - to work together on behalf of the Nation we love. We all know that the only way to stop the slide occasioned by the moral relativism of our age, and to reverse the resulting decay of authentic freedom, is to reassert the foundational moral values of a free society

After all, that really is the task we face. The theme of the conference was "Fighting for the Soul of America." It was held at the First Baptist Church in Oviedo, Florida on April 19 - 20 2013 - Friday 6:30 - 9:00 pm & Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

I joined many national religious and political speakers who bring their formidable experience and sincere dedication to this conference. We have many differing theological positions on vital and important issues. However, we share a common commitment to the truth which alone can set men, women and nations free.

We also know that when a society declines into embracing the idea that there is nothing objectively true - which can be known by all and form the basis of our common life - there is no basis for true freedom.

Freedom can neither be realized, nor can it flourish, unless it is exercised in reference to choosing what is true and what is good. Our choices not only affect the world around us, they change us, individually and as a people.

As a Nation we have lost our moral compass. As a direct result, we are losing genuine freedom. The idea that we can separate moral issues from fiscal or international issues is wrong. There is a moral basis to every political and social concern - that includes economics and foreign policy.

Making this kind of claim is not reserved to religious people. Such a claim acknowledges a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. That Natural Moral Law is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built.

The Natural Moral Law gives us norms needed to build just societies and govern ourselves.  It must inform the positive law of a Nation or it becomes lawless and devolves into anarchy. We need men and women in to run for office and govern who are unafraid to acknowledge this fact.

They need to be strong enough to withstand the incessant effort to caricature, label and disparage them because they openly espouse such views. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.

There is also a hierarchy of rights, which begins with Life. When there is no recognition of a preeminent right to life, there follows an erosion of the entire structure of all human rights. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum; they are goods of the human person.

Without the freedom to be born, all of the talk about compassion for the poor as well as the promise of economic freedom is hollow. Our failure as a Nation to recognize that our first neighbors in the womb have a right to be born and live a full life in our community is a foundational failure in our obligation in solidarity.

When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things, when it loses sight of the primacy of the inviolable dignity of every single human person at every age, every stage and of every size, it embraces a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf.

It is also an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper and its societal implications. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and actually calls it a right.

In addition to insisting upon the recognition by the State of the fundamental Human Right to Life we must also defend authentic marriage. Marriage is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities.

We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures. 

The effort to redefine marriage out of existence threatens our future as a free, virtuous and healthy people. Marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of creation and relation. In the words of the first book of the Bible we read,  "it is not good for man to be alone". It all begins with the family. We can only be fully human - and experience human flourishing and freedom - in relationship with one another. We are by nature - and by grace - social creatures. 

Children have a right to a mother and a father. Of course we must care about the single parent family and the many broken homes. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary for grounding a stable and healthy society. In tact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order.

The growing idea that there can be a division between social thought and economic application is also a false dichotomy. The market was made for man and not man for the market. Only a moral people can ensure that a market economy remains free.

Freedom is much more than a freedom from - it is a freedom for responsible and virtuous living. The early founders of the United States of America spoke of the pursuit of happiness with reference to just such an understanding of virtue as a key to living a happy life.

Freedom brings with it obligations to do what is right and to care for others. We have an obligation in solidarity to one another and, in particular, to the poor. We are our brother/sisterīs keeper. The division between social thought and economic application is a false dichotomy. The market was made for man and not man for the market. Only a moral people can ensure that a market economy remains free.

However, we need to apply the social ordering principle of subsidiarity in implementing this obligation -  in both governing structures and the economic order. This principle insists that governance should be exercised at the lowest practicable level - first - beginning with the family.

Larger governing entities must never usurp the rightful role of families and the mediating structures of society such as religious institutions, associations, charities and small self governing structures between the family and the institutions of civil government.

Statism never works, whether of the rightist or the leftist version. It squelches freedom, creativity, initiative and genuine human compassion. Not because government is somehow intrinsically evil, but because collectivism is simply not good government; it is tyranny.

The question we should ask is whether the government being exercised is good, including whether it is efficient and effective as well as healthy. That can best be assessed by considering who does the governing, where it happens and whether such governing reflects truly moral values.

We insist upon the moral foundation of freedom itself. We may be free to choose, but some choices are always and everywhere wrong. We know this is true because it is written on the human heart. It does not require religion to reveal it or to make it obligatory. It is a part of our common morality.

For example, the shared knowledge of what is right is the basis for our criminal justice system. We all know it is always wrong to kill an innocent neighbor. This is true even if that neighbor lives in the first home of the whole human race, their mother's womb. We hide voluntary abortion behind Orwellian language such as choice and abortion rights in an attempt to make it sound noble, but it is barbarism. It does not free us; it enslaves us. Abortions have no rights, human persons do, like the human person in the womb.

We need men and women to run for public office who can champion authentic freedom - in a way that inspires people to sacrifice for it. We need candidates who promote an authentic vision of human freedom; not a libertinism masquerading as liberty or a selfish individualism rejecting our obligation to one another. They will also need thick skin because they will face the brunt of the intolerant secularists along with the derision of some within their own political circles. 

The secularist censors want to relegate our truth claims concerning the dignity of every human life and our defense of marriage and the family founded upon it by claiming they are just religious positions. They then insist that these positions are not an appropriate subject for public policy or political discourse. They want truth claims to be confined within our Church Walls. They now try to use the Police power of the State to silence us.

This is not freedom it is tyranny. There is a difference between a secular state, a state which welcomes all religious expressions or none at all, and "secularism", an oppressive anti-religious regime which seeks to censor out of the public forum the wonderful contributions of the Church, people of faith, and the great ideas informed by faith which have shaped the West.

There is a Cultural Revolution underway in the West. There are two conflicting visions of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and marriage and the family founded upon it as the first cell of a truly just society contending for the future. These visions are incompatible with one another. Only one will triumph.

The American founders carried a vision of authentic freedom into the experiment in ordered liberty called the United States of America. However, they did not come up with this ennobling and enabling vision on their own. They received it from the treasury of Western civilization which was found in Christendom.
 
It is the Jewish and Christian vision of the human person, the primacy of marriage and the family founded upon it, and the acknowledgement of the existence of normative, fundamental moral truths, which guarantees the future of Western civilization. Recovering their priamry role is the path to true progress.

These truths, revealed by the Natural Law, these rights, endowed upon us by our Creator, have fueled our determined efforts to build a truly free society. They have ensured our survival against totalitarianism of every ilk and every political persuasion. 

When embraced and welcomed, they can properly govern our life together and keep the flame of freedom burning in the torch of Lady Liberty. When rejected, we will succumb to the various forms of tyranny which pretend to liberate but only lead to slavery.

Because I believe all of this, and because I love this Nation, I spoke at the Awakening Conference and I will stand with the Freedom Federation.

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