The Vatican has responded to the Trump administration’s decision to repeal a ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces by offering an alternative: religious freedom.
In a letter to the president, Pope Francis said that religious freedom, the “liberation of conscience and religious liberty” are two sides of the same coin and that there is no contradiction between them.
The pope’s letter came the day after the Trump Administration announced that the ban would be overturned.
“If there is a contradiction between religious liberty and freedom, then the answer is always the same,” Francis wrote in his letter to Trump, which was released Tuesday.
“The Church and the people of Christ know that faithfulness to the Lord is essential to the good of the whole of society,” Francis said.
“As such, the Church and all of us must stand firm in our religious and moral principles, and we must defend these rights and freedoms for all.”
The Catholic Church has always been a staunch defender of religious freedom for those who believe in the supernatural, the pope wrote, and that includes for people of faith.
“We must protect all people from the evil that comes from the darkness of relativism and political correctness,” he wrote.
“I think it is a matter of conscience for all of our people and in particular, for the Church, because it has always stood up to protect people’s religious freedom and have defended it when necessary.”
The pope said he hopes the Trump-Pence administration will also respect religious freedom as part of the ongoing efforts to protect the human rights of all people.
“What we have seen is an administration that has never accepted or understood religious freedom,” Francis continued.
“What is happening is a total betrayal of faith in our faith and in the very essence of who we are.”
He said the Church has a moral obligation to defend and protect the “moral and human rights” of people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“That is why I believe we must be faithful in our mission to defend the rights of people from evil,” Francis concluded.
“Because that is what we are called to do.”
The U.S. Catholic Conference said it was pleased with Francis’ letter and that it was looking forward to reviewing the pope’s remarks in the future.
“This is the first in a series of statements by Pope Francis that reflect his profound understanding of the value of human dignity and the human right to religious freedom to which he referred in his message of solidarity and hope for peace in the world,” the U.K.-based Catholic Association for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons said in a statement.