Religious freedom -- the liberty to believe and act according to our faith -- is a fundamental principle. The Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae), stated:
This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits. (Dignitatis Humanae 2)
Pope Francis recently commented on the threats to religious freedom in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism. (255)
Current Threats to Religious Liberty
In our present day, there are a number of threats posed to the religious freedom of the Church and individuals. For more information about these, follow these links:
Resources to Learn More About Religious Liberty
There are a number of significant documents that should be consulted, to learn about the Church's teaching on religious liberty:
Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2012)
Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae), Second Vatican Council (1965)
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2104 and following.
There are also many excellent resources available regarding religious liberty at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.