MYRTLE BEACH—Carol Jean Walters is on a mission to rally people around the importance of fighting for religious freedom.
The former New Yorker has started local chapters of Catholics for Freedom of Religion. She first became involved in the grassroots group through her former parish, St. James in Setauket in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island.
The organization was founded by Barbara Samuells and Eileen Wolfe, both of Long Island, in response to concerns over the HHS mandate, which required employers to provide contraceptive coverage to workers under the Affordable Care Act.
In New York, Catholics for Freedom of Religion quickly became involved in spreading information about religious liberty at the parish level. They have also helped some who felt their own religious freedom was being threatened, including a high school student from Long Island who tried to form an interfaith discussion group at his school and was initially turned down.
Samuels said the organizers dream of establishing branches in every diocese around the nation, and she felt called to spread the word in South Carolina. After she and her husband moved to Myrtle Beach in late 2013, she received permission from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and her pastor, Father James LeBlanc.
Since March, Catholics for Religious Freedom has met monthly at St. Andrew Church and hosted a variety of speakers, including a Florida attorney who specializes in the constitution. The group has about 40 members who attend regularly, ranging from families with children to senior citizens.
They participated in the Fortnight for Freedom over the summer, and sponsored an essay and art contest for middle and high school students that they hope to expand in 2015.
“It’s been quite a journey, but very exciting and rewarding,” Walters said.
“We’ve hit a few bumps in the road, but the important thing is letting people know this is important. It’s about our country and our Church, and how important it is to support the God-given freedom of religion,” she said.
To learn more about Catholics for Freedom of Religion and how to start a group at your parish, contact Carol Jean Walters: (843) 236-0162 or (631) 926-0995; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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