President Donald Trump issued a proclamation last week to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, a Catholic saint and archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered by King Henry II’s knights because of his “courageous stand for religious liberty.”
Calling him a “lion of religious liberty,” Trump’s proclamation invited “the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches and customary places of meeting with appropriate ceremonies in commemoration of the life and legacy of Thomas Becket.”
“Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty. It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs,” said Trump’s proclamation.
After years of resisting the king’s “oppressive interferences into the life of the church,” Becket was “cut down where he stood inside the walls of his own church.”
“As Americans, we were first united by our belief that ‘rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God’ and that defending liberty is more important than life itself. If we are to continue to be the land of the free, no government official, no governor, no bureaucrat, no judge, and no legislator must be allowed to decree what is orthodox in matters of religion or to require religious believers to violate their consciences,” said Trump.
“No right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions. As I declared in Krasiński Square in Warsaw, Poland on July 6, 2017, the people of America and the people of the world still cry out: ‘We want God,’” he continued.
In honor of Becket’s legacy, Trump called for an end to the “crimes against people of faith,” the release of “prisoners of conscience,” and the repeal of “laws restricting freedom of religion.”
“The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty,” said the president.
Fr. Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church in Madison, Wisconsin, discussed the proclamation during a homily last week and criticized the tyrants within the Church “for making an example of someone like Fr. James Altman.”
“This is an alarm bell. There’s no other way to look at this,” he said. “This is an alarm bell to all people of faith. The tyrants are moving in.”