Freedom to Live our Faith
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)
This liberty does not belong just to individuals, but to the Church itself:
Among the things that concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth -- things therefore that are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury -- this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires. This is a sacred freedom, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. Indeed it is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order. (Dignitatis Humanae 13)
Resources for Education 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.
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: