Maybe you read this quote from Pope Francis that was making the rounds on Facebook last week:

“It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money — for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history do not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name.”

It is a remarkable statement from the leader of a major world religion, and represents a significant change of church doctrine.

It is also a hoax.

According to the fact-checking website, this quote does not match any statement ever made by Pope Francis and is entirely inconsistent with the teachings of his church. The pope still believes in God, he wants you to go to church and he doesn’t think a Sunday walk in the woods appreciating nature is an acceptable substitute.

While this may be a disappointment to some, it should not be a surprise. The pope is, after all, still Catholic.

And people also should not be surprised that the pope had a private audience with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was willing to go to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The pope reportedly encouraged Davis in a private audience during his stay in Washington D.C.. This comes as a shock to those who thought they had heard from Francis a softening in the church’s harsh rhetoric toward the lesbian and gay community, such as when he said in 2013, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Even though pope has chosen to focus on other issues, such as economic justice and stewardship of the environment, he never altered the church’s position on same-sex marriage. His views are still about the same as Davis’.

Pope Francis spoke to millions of Americans during his visit, and many reported profound experiences that cannot be fully captured in words. He did not come here to tell us who to vote for or deliver messages that could be captured on a bumper sticker. Some people will be disappointed but no one should be surprised to find that he is not a politician.

The pope’s meeting with Davis is a perfect illustration of how religious freedom works in a pluralistic democracy.

The pope is guided by his faith. He sees Davis as someone who shares his beliefs and has suffered for them. He is free to act on his beliefs without restriction.

Davis is a believer who is also a civil official who has an obligation to serve the public. Part of her job is issuing marriage licenses, and it’s the law, not her faith, that tells her who is qualified to get one.

No one can tell Davis what to believe, but the county clerk has to serve everyone regardless of whether they share her beliefs, and there are legal consequences if she won’t do it.

The pope’s meeting with Davis should cool the temptation that some Americans are having to project their political views onto the attractive religious figure.

And it also should remind people of faith that while their freedom to practice their religion is absolute, it does not let them write their own laws. That’s what politics is for.

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