President Obama, who has been trying to reframe the Constitution’s protection of religious rights to the narrower “freedom to worship” rather than “freedom of religion” went a step further over the weekend in an address to a homosexual festival.
He said at the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Gala in New York that the Constitution’s protections for “gay” rights trump the protection for religious rights.
“We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions,” he said. ‘But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”
Obama said that “even as we are respectful and accommodating of genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes.”
“That’s not how we move America forward,” he said.
The conflict arose when the Supreme Court in June created a right to “same-sex marriage,” overturning the votes of people in a majority of states.
The Obergefell opinion, in a narrow 5-4 vote, included a perfunctory acknowledgement of the constitutional free exercise of religion.
However, in practice, religious rights are succumbing to the “right to gay marriage,” as illustrated in the case of Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis.
A federal judge jailed Davis for six days after she refused to follow his order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
WND reported Monday Pope Francis comes supported Davis.
“Conscientious objection must enter into every judicial structure because it is a right,” he said to reporters as he flew home to Rome on the heels of a 10-day stop in America, Reuters reported.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection, but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said.
“And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Otherwise, we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, ‘This right has merit, this one does not.’”
Obama, at the “gay” festival, also quoted Harvey Milk – a San Francisco city official whose biography describes how he had a penchant for sex with young boys – as a hero of the movement.
“Harvey Milk once said, ‘If a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.’ But to those of us who’ve made it through those doors, we’ve got a unique obligation to reach back and make sure other people can make it through those doors, too,” Obama said.
“We have a responsibility to stand up to bigotry not just against us, but against anybody, anywhere. We have a responsibility to stand up for freedom – not just our own freedom, but for everybody’s freedom. We speak up to condemn hatred against anybody – gay or straight, black or white, Christian, Muslim, Jew, non-believer, immigrant because we remember what silence felt like when hatred was directed at us, and we’ve got to be champions on behalf of justice for everybody, not just our own. ”
Davis’ defenders in her fight over religious rights have argued that the “freedom of religion” is enumerated in the Constitution, while the “same-sex marriage” right was created by the Supreme Court.
WND reported months ago when a group of prominent faith leaders asked t Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to fix a problematic document for newcomers to the United States that teaches about the country’s “freedom of worship” rather than freedom to exercise religion.
“We … write to you with deep concern about the wording of the answer to question 51 on the study materials for the civics portion of the naturalization exam. The question asks students to provide two rights guaranteed to everyone living in the United States, and listed among the possible correct answers is ‘Freedom of Worship.’ We write to you requesting that this answer be immediately corrected to the constitutionally accurate answer – ‘Freedom of Religion,'” the letter, from this summer, said.
“We believe that the wording change we are requesting represents much more than a ‘distinction without a difference.’ Many totalitarian forms of government have allowed for the freedom of worship in their governmental documents but in practice severely restricted individual religious freedoms. The phrase freedom of worship, as it has been used throughout history, articulates an intentionally limited freedom that restricts a citizen’s rights to the four walls of a government-sanctioned house of worship and only for specific times and events.”
The letter was issued by the Weyrich Lunch participants. The group is named after the late chairman of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Paul Weyrich.
The inaccurate statement on the government document, the signers said, “certainly is not how our founders envisioned the intrinsic rights of all Americans secured by the Constitution.”
“The use of the phrase Freedom of Religion accurately represents the broad freedom guaranteed to every citizen – religious and non-religious alike – to live life in the public square according to the dictates of conscience or religious sensibility.
“Freedom of religion is wholly different from freedom of worship, in that the former is broad and robust and the latter is narrow and limited.”
They quoted Michelle Obama in her address at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., that followed the murder of nine people at prayer meeting there.
“Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well. … Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church, He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day,” she said.
The signers said: “We agree with our first lady and trust that you see the importance of properly articulating this important distinction. We request that the change be made as soon as possible wherever it appears in the naturalization process but especially in the study materials, so that those preparing for and taking the naturalization exam can have an accurate understanding of the foundational freedoms so beautifully expressed in our Constitution.”
Early in President Obama’s tenure in the White House, Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate attack on the Constitution’s “freedom of religion” protections.
The report noted a crucial change in Obama’s language between his June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, in which he spoke of a Muslim America and its “freedom of religion,” and the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a radical Muslim, in which he termed it “freedom of worship.”
From that point on, “freedom of worship” has become the term of choice, the report said.
The use of the term in the naturalization process recently got attention in Congress.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., charged during a hearing that included Johnson that the government was “misrepresenting” the First Amendment.
“We in the United States actually have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship,” Lankford said.
See his comments:
He said: “The questionnaire civics test has in it one of these things, ‘What are two rights of everyone living in the United States, and it listed out six different things: freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, freedom of worship, the right to bear arms. I’d love to see ‘freedom of worship’ switched to ‘freedom of religion.'”
Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice across America, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.
Just ask the New York landowners who were fined by the state for following their Christian faith regarding their sponsorship of same-sex ceremonies, or the Oregon bakery owners fined $135,000 for the same thing, or the Colorado baker who is fighting for his economic future against state officials suggesting that he go out of business because his faith forbids support of same-sex marriage.
Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869 to provide a place for Christian meetings, which still operates as one of the more popular destinations for such events on the East Coast.
It houses one of the world’s 20 largest pipe organs, and there are both traditional and contemporary worship programs all summer long that have featured speakers such as Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.
But the location no longer is used for weddings, because a lesbian duo was denied permission to use it, and a state discrimination complaint was filed.
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is facing demands from the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to perform same-sex weddings in violation of the owners’ Christian faith.
In Washington state, a state judge said the home, assets and savings of Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, 70, could be targeted in court by two homosexuals for whom she declined to provide wedding services.
Early in Obama’s administration, Catholic Online noted that Ashley Samelson of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained that to “anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling: The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship.”
“It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves – yet ‘freedom of worship’ would protect none of these acts of faith.”
Catholic Online said: “Let’s be clear … language matters when it comes to defining freedoms and limits. A shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship moves the dialog from the world stage into the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. … It … could exclude our right to raise our children in our faith, the right to religious education, literature or media, the right to raise funds or organize charitable activities and the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life.”