OREM — Quoting political and religious thought from Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the modern philosopher Francis Beckwith, and employing his trademark humor, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York roused a crowd of more than 3,000 people to applause and laughter during his keynote address at a June 30 patriotic event.
The patriotic service at the UCCU Events Center on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem was part of the America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, an annual event held around the Fourth of July. Among those attending were Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, and his wife, Mary Cook; the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City; Monsignor Joseph M. Mayo, a retired priest of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City; other General Authorities and church auxiliary leaders from the LDS Church; Senator Mike Lee and his wife, Sharon Lee; Orrin Hatch, former U.S. senator from Utah; Utah Governor Gary Herbert and his wife, Jeannette Herbert; Congressman John Curtis; and other government officials.
The event included musical performances by the 23rd Army Band of the Utah National Guard and the One Voice Children’s Choir.
Bishop Solis gave the invocation.
“In your goodness you call us tonight to recognize our unity in the midst of diversity,” to gather as brothers and sisters regardless of differences of culture and religious affiliations, the bishop said. He prayed that government leaders would extend religious freedom in the United States and throughout the world.
Elder Cook introduced Cardinal Dolan as a good friend who has worked with LDS Church leaders on many issues, including matters of faith and family, and joint humanitarian efforts. The cardinal also has been instrumental in “opening important doors in relationships for our leaders. … He is a bridge builder for all faiths,” Elder Cook said.
Focusing his remarks on freedom of religion, Cardinal Dolan said to applause that he fears “our first and most cherished liberty” is in danger even though it “has been and is the most driving force for every enlightened, unshackling, noble cause in American history.”
Those causes included the American Revolution. Cardinal Dolan told the story of Peter Muhlenberg, a preacher who was recruited by General George Washington to become the first commander of the 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army.
To announce his commission as an Army colonel, Muhlenberg stood on the pulpit and, using the Book of Ecclesiastes as a text, said, “The Bible tells us that there is a time for all things, and there is a time to preach and a time to pray, but the time for me to preach has passed away, and there’s a time to fight, and that time has now come.”
Cardinal Dolan recounted how Muhlenberg removed his clerical robe to reveal his colonel’s uniform, and inspired 162 men from his congregation to enlist in the Continental Army.
“Oh, no wonder, with religion and the churches such essential partners in the revolution, no wonder freedom of religion was enshrined in our national charter,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Similarly, the leaders of the Abolitionist movement were all motivated by “a conscience moved by faith,” as were those of the women’s equality movement, the Civil Rights movement and today’s pro-life movement, he said.
The defense of religious freedom is the “quintessential American cause, the foundation of all other human rights,” he said. “My proposition to all of us this evening is that in letting freedom ring, we citizens of any and all faiths, or of none at all, are not paranoid and self-serving in defending what we hold as ours, but are in fact protecting the country we love. We act not as sectarians but as responsible citizens. We act on behalf of the truth about the human person.”
Other liberties promised by the Bill of Rights would be in jeopardy if freedom of religion is diluted, the cardinal said.
The freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, the cardinal said.
“Simply put, my friends, government has no business interfering in the eternal life, the soul, the conscience, or the church,” he said to applause. “Protect our free exercise, and then leave us alone.”
These days, freedom of religion is threatened by secularists, who believe that religion has no place in the public square, but “Our faith just isn’t about showing up on Sunday, it’s about what we do on Monday through Saturday!” Cardinal Dolan said.
Another threat comes from government intrusion into the church’s ministries, message and meaning, he added.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you, but recently a prominent Catholic political leader in Washington stated that, ‘You know, my church needs to get over this conscience thing.’ Well, no, we don’t. And as a matter of fact, no, we can’t, neither as believers nor as loyal American citizens. ... All we want, along with those first patriots, the Abolitionists, the William Jennings Bryants, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, the Rev. Martin Luther King, is the freedom to carry the convictions of a faith-born conscience into our public lives.”
He concluded with, “We want to let freedom ring, and that’s why I’m so thrilled to be with you tonight. God bless America!”
On July 1, the day following his keynote address, Cardinal Dolan presided at the morning Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Concelebrating the Mass were Bishop Solis; Msgr. Mayo; Fr. Anil Kakumanu, parochial vicar of Saint James the Greater Parish; and Fr. Joseph Delka, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Deacon George Reade assisted.
He then met with LDS Church leaders at the Church Administration Building, and toured various facilities in the Salt Lake area, including Temple Square and the Bishops’ Central Storehouse.