Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, passionately emphasized the importance of freedom of religion during the America’s Freedom Festival’s Patriotic Service event on Sunday at the UCCU Center on Utah Valley University campus.
“What are we here for this evening?” Dolan, the keynote speaker of the night, asked a large, religiously mixed crowd. “Our first liberty and freedom most endangered of being taken away — freedom of religion.”
Throughout his address, Dolan elicited frequent spurts of applause with pithy, rousing one-liners regarding religious freedom.
“Freedom of religion has been and is the driving force of every enlightened ... event in American history,” he said.
Dolan brought up several main events in American history — including the Revolutionary War, the abolition of slavery, women fighting for equal rights and Martin Luther King’s leadership of the Civil Rights Movement — attesting that each sprung from a foundation of religious faith.
“(Freedom of religion) is the quintessential American cause, the foundation of all other human rights ... we are defending the country we love,” Dolan said, adding that the Founding Fathers intended to “let religion flourish unchained,” and today’s secularists intend religion to be repressed and limited.
Dolan spoke with fervor and urgency, stating that religious freedom is in danger from secular beliefs currently rising in popularity and influence.
“Protect our free exercise, and then leave us alone,” he said to a round of applause.
Dolan mentioned the regret he felt when he heard a Catholic politician ask when the church would get over “this conscience thing.”
“We won’t and can’t get over ‘this conscience thing’ ... neither as believers, nor Americans.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, an apostle of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke briefly before Dolan, introducing the archbishop as a good friend of his.
“He has really been an influence in an extraordinary way,” Cook said. “He (is) extremely inclusive of all religions, of all faiths ... He’s a bridge builder for all faiths.”
Cook mentioned that Dolan and he have a close personal relationship after working together over the years, their two religions collaborating in humanitarian efforts and religious freedom causes.
The audience at the UCCU Center, which Dolan jokingly called a “two-collection crowd,” was comprised of members of the LDS and Catholic churches, along with many veterans, who were recognized during the 23rd Army Band of the Utah National Guard’s performance of the “Armed Forces Melody.”
One Voice Children’s Choir also performed several patriotic songs throughout the night, and the 2019 winner of the Freedom Festival Youth Speech Contest, Grayson Hardman from Lone Peak High School, gave the first speech of the event.
“The amazing freedoms our country gives allows us to achieve our goals ... Even though we may not realize it, we’re using our rights all the time,” Hardman said, eliciting a standing ovation from the majority of the crowd at the end of his speech.
One of the four recipients of this year’s Freedom Awards, which honors individuals who have given meaning and depth to the value of freedom, was in attendance and was introduced by Vicki Garbutt, Freedom Festival gala chairwoman.
Christel Sawatze Foreman, Garbutt said, was born in Germany and endured major hardships during World War II, including the imprisonment and death of her father and her family’s farm being burned to the ground by the Red Army.
“Eventually they were able to immigrate to the United States,” Garbutt said. “Her love of America and gratitude for the freedoms they found here still burn bright.”
The other three recipients of this year’s Freedom Awards are the Maj. Brent Taylor family, Tommy Asher and Cmdr. Don L. Lind.
For more information about Freedom Festival events, go to http://freedomfestival.org.