Last Thursday, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput spoke on the role of religion in American life. “If we stick religion in the closet like a dangerously eccentric in-law,” he stated, “American public life can’t work as its Founders and Framers intended.”
His remarks were made at the annual dinner of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, during which he accepted the Canterbury Medal, an award given yearly to honor those who have “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God’s.”
Past Canterbury Medalists include Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Gov. and Mrs. Mitt Romney, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, financiers Foster Friess and Ted Forstmann, and former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican James R. Nicholson and Mary Ann Glendon.
“We are especially proud to add Archbishop Chaput to this distinguished list,” says Becket Fund president Kevin “Seamus” Hasson. “He is neither shy nor soft-spoken when he believes religious liberty in general or his Roman Catholic faith are in jeopardy. It is we who are honored by his acceptance of our medal.”
“Freedom of religious faith is woven into our founding documents. It’s hardwired into the assumptions of all of us who treasure the privilege of being an American,” Chaput said in his speech.
The archbishop, the first Native American to have been elevated to that position, spoke movingly about his personal experience: “I never really understood what that freedom meant, though, until I served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and saw what its absence looks like; until I understood from the facts and from my own eyes the systematic abuse of religious believers that takes place in so many countries around the globe.”
The Archbishop’s book, Render Unto Caesar , as well as his prominent interventions in the public square have made important contributions to religious liberty and the national political discourse. His bold words have been cited and debated by leading commentators across political and religious lines.
As CNN reporter and legendary Vatican journalist John Allen notes, Archbishop Chaput writes not just for Catholics “but for anyone who cares about the state of America’s soul.” The Archbishop insists that American democracy depends on an engaged citizenry – people of character, including religious believers, fighting for their beliefs in the public square – respectfully but vigorously, and without apology.
The Becket Fund is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. It has successfully represented clients from a wide variety of religious traditions-including Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians-in religious liberty litigation around the world.
For a copy of Archbishop’s Chaput acceptance speech please click here .
See coverage of last year’s award in the U.S. News and World Report.
Order Archbishop Chaput’s best-seller book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life .
Click here to see Archbishop Chaput’s biography on the Denver Archdiocese’s website.