Church-State Concerns Highlight Prayer Breakfast ; Religion

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Religious liberties are under assault, said speakers at 'Fortnight for Freedom' event

PROVIDENCE -- Do you assume America is a free country? Do you assume religious freedom is guaranteed here?

Law professor Dwight G. Duncan of the University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth posed these questions to a large audience Wednesday during a Mass and prayer breakfast held at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul to defend religious freedom.

The national Fortnight for Freedom campaign kicked off in Providence with a turnout of about 400 state residents who have seen the religious-freedom debate play out in towns such as Cranston, where a federal judge ordered a prayer banner removed from Cranston High School West; and in Woonsocket, where the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, has demanded that a war monument with a cross on top dedicated to fallen soldiers from World War I and World War II be removed from the parking lot of the city's main fire station because, the group asserts, it violates the separation of church and state.

"Most of us have learned that in school and have taken it for granted ever since. In other countries people might have to worry about whether and how they can practice their religion. Not here ...," Duncan said.

Catholics must defend their religious freedom, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said during the homily.

"This exercise is not about the church teaching on contraception. …