‘Religious Freedom Matters’ Enters Its Third Season

The new season will focus on school choice.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, is among the guests.
Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, is among the guests. (photo: Shutterstock)

I’m the host of Religious Freedom Matters — a podcast in which, together with Register Senior Editor Joan Frawley Desmond and a range of high-profile guests, I address the worrying and fast-changing challenges to religious liberty around the world and, increasingly, here in the United States. 

As our third season begins, there’s a new urgency to our discussions. The Biden administration is proving unremittingly hostile to any religious beliefs that challenge gender ideology. People of faith are now constantly having to resort to the Supreme Court to stop both federal and state governments from behaving like progressive dictators. For example, last year, the Court ruled unanimously against the city of Philadelphia, which had scandalously banned Catholic Social Services from providing foster care because of it’s refusal to abandon Church teaching on sacramental marriage. 

We’ve just witnessed the government of China use the Beijing Winter Olympics to sanitize its persecution of Muslim Uyghurs — something that will have come as no surprise to Tom Farr of the Religious Freedom Institute, a former top adviser to presidents on this subject, who was a guest on the first season of Religious Freedom Matters. Other guests in that season included Roger Severino at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Lori Windham of Becket law group, who spelled out the seriousness of threats to freedom of conscience in America. Another highlight was our interview with professor Joseph Capizzi of The Catholic University of America, a rising star in Catholic academia, who gave us a brilliant primer on Catholic teaching and why advancing the cause of religious freedom benefits the common good.

Our second season took us to the great ideological battleground of education. For example, Mary Hasson from the Catholic Women’s Forum and Denise Donohue from the Cardinal Newman Society shared the shocking truth about how gender ideology and its sinister counterpart, critical race theory, are transforming school culture across the country.

We heard good news, too. Dominican Father Dominic Legge and his Thomistic Institute are achieving spectacular results in nurturing a new generation of Catholic college graduates. My friend Mike Ortner shared some of the findings of the Catholic School Playbook — documenting what thriving schools are doing differently to cultivate strong communities of students, families and educators. And Notre Dame Law professor Nicole Garnett — one of the country’s foremost experts on school choice — explained how legal barriers to school choice have been felled by the Supreme Court.

But not everyone has access to faith-run schools, and in parts of this country there is dogmatic opposition to the whole concept. So, in this new third season, we will be focusing on the whole subject of school choice.

We’ll be hearing from Bishop Thomas Daly, of Spokane, Washington, the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, who emphasizes the importance of Catholic schools being authentically Catholic. They must, he says, “stay on mission.” 

Shawn Peterson, director of Catholic Education Partners, agrees. He urges all Catholics to “get out of the Upper Room” to spread the word about Catholic schools. Lucia Luzondo, a leader in Hispanic ministry, shares ideas on how to bridge the gap between the large percentage of Hispanics in the Catholic Church — especially under the age of 18 — and the small percentage of Hispanic children attending Catholic schools. 

Sam Brownback, former ambassador-at-large for international religious liberty, shares his experience as a longtime senator and the governor of Kansas in advancing school-choice options. He has formed a new coalition — the National Committee for Religious Freedom — to support politicians who defend religious freedom, including advancing the cause of school choice. And Thomas Carroll, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, explains the situation “on the ground” at Catholic schools in America and steps he is taking to encourage more families to opt in to Catholic education.  

Religious freedom matters. Catholic parents must be free to choose Catholic schools for their children. School choice is a key to unlocking this freedom.

Please check out the episodes in our third season of the Register’s Religious Freedom Matters podcast. I’m certain that what you will hear will inspire you to continue to defend religious freedom as you advocate for school choice and the renewal of Catholic education in America. 

Rebecca Shah (l) and Ambassador Sam Brownback

Ambassador Sam Brownback and Rebecca Shah (Season 4 — Ep. 5)

Our guests on this episode of Religious Freedom Matters are Sam Brownback, a former U.S. senator and Kansas governor who served as the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021, and Rebecca Shah, principal investigator for the Religion and Economic Empowerment Project (REEP) and a senior fellow at the Archbridge Institute.