Next week at this time America will be celebrating its Independence Day. More than two centuries after Americans won a revolution for democratic governance, half a world away democracy struggles to stay alive.

Iran is ostensibly a democracy in that it holds elections. Whether they are free and fair is the crux of weeklong protests by thousands of Iranians objecting to what they see as a rigged election for their president, the erratic and dangerous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The conclusion of Iran’s internal strife remains uncertain this week. Even if the election results are permitted to stand, Iran will never again be the same. Its people (not all, but many) put the principles of democracy into action by opposing injustice in their midst. And once people get a taste of asserting their freedom, they’ll seek more.

The protests and their deadly response from the ruling regime are less about election laws than about the rights and freedoms of a people.

Many of the people protesting are women. One Iranian woman shares her perspective in an interview in this issue of the CS&T. Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo is starring in a new film that looks at the practice of stoning of women in some Muslim countries. She laments the lack of rights for women in Iran since the days of the shah and sees the current crisis there as the dawn of a new day, when perhaps the flicker of freedom may grow brighter. The struggle for greater human rights in the face of a political and cultural system that affords women little holds up a mirror for us on these shores.

The Church calls upon Catholics to go against the grain even in our culture, one whose system relies on the high-minded concepts of freedom, human rights and respect for human dignity.

It is up to us, along with all people of good will, to oppose through the political process unjust laws that allow the destruction of innocent human life, that fail to address the human needs of people moving across borders, that weaken the family by affirming same-sex marriage and a number of other issues addressed by our Catholic bishops.

Laws that place any considerations above the respect due to each human person require every American to be moved into action like those Iranian protestors. Must we not show as much courage to build a more perfect union in our own land of the free?