Both Fry and Dawkins would do well to read Dignitatis Humanae, now forty-five years old, and promulgated not by the European Commission on Human Rights, the NCCL or the UN, but by the Catholic Church. In it the Church defends the right of all men to freedom of conscience in matters of faith; defends not only the rights of Catholics, but all Christians, and all Moslems, and all Jews, and all Buddhists, and even, one must suppose, the rights of Animists amongst some remote jungle tribe to worship a potato if that is what they believe in.
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.The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.
On the matter of how far religious freedom should go in civil society, and prescient in its anticipation of Islamic militants and the evil Jihadists, DH says;
The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.
Against the bigoted ranting of Mr Dawkins, the position of the Catholic Church is positively Libertarian. Dawkins is increasingly resembling the sandwich-board man who used to live on the steps of the old Mirror building in Holborn, a bit cracked. And this is good; for Dawkins, too, has the right to worship a potato, or Mammon, or whatever. What neither he nor Stephen Fry has the right to do is to organise coercion against the beliefs of Britain's Catholics, or deprive them of the rights of conscience.