The First Amendment to the United States Constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and Americans throughout history have interpreted this as a guarantee of freedom of religion.

However, as WND has documented, the Obama administration has stealthily replaced the term “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” in official pronouncements.

Pastor Rafael Cruz, the father of GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and author of the new book,  “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” warns that this subtle shift in language would be devastating for America if the policy and practice come to follow the words.

“Most Christians don’t realize the danger of freedom of worship,” Cruz said during a recent appearance on “Hagee Hotline” with pastor Matthew Hagee. “Freedom of worship is not the same as freedom of religion. Every Communist country around the world has freedom of worship. What freedom of worship means is you can worship inside a house of worship.”

SPECIAL OFFER: Get an autographed copy of Rafael Cruz’s powerful new book, “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” at a discounted price, from the WND Superstore.

Cruz explained even in his native Cuba a person can share the gospel inside a church. There may be spies present to ensure no one speaks out against the government, but congregants nevertheless have the freedom to go to church and worship their God.

However, if a person tries to spread the gospel outside the church building, he or she goes to prison.

“So freedom of worship is to try to keep our message of the gospel just locked up inside the four walls of the church and remove any message of Christianity from the civic society,” Cruz said. “That will destroy the moral fiber of America, and that’s what’s happening in America today.”

Under freedom of worship, Cynthia and Robert Gifford, for example, have the right to go to church and worship God, but they do not have the right to express their religious views on homosexuality by refusing to allow a lesbian couple to use their upstate New York farm for a wedding.

When the Giffords declined to permit Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin to hold their wedding ceremony at Liberty Ridge Farm, New York state fined them $10,000 and assessed $1,500 in damages.

WND has published a Big List of many more violations of Americans’ religious liberties because of beliefs about same-sex marriage.

It reveals the Obama administration seems to be trying to move the United States away from freedom of religion.

Last year, it was reported that the Department of Homeland Security had replaced “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” as a basic American right listed on the civics tests given to immigrants who wish to become naturalized citizens.

Cruz knows the value of religious freedom because he did not always have it. He grew up under the oppressive Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba. As a teenager, he became involved in Fidel Castro’s revolution, and the Batista regime punished him for it. However, he was able to escape to the United States, for which he is eternally grateful.

“I was imprisoned and tortured, but by the grace of God – that God that I didn’t know, but He knew me – I was able to come to the greatest country on the face of the Earth, come to America,” Cruz recalled. “I am so proud to be an American. This is the only land, the only country in the world founded on the word of God, and even though I didn’t know Him, God had plans for my life.”

Cruz sees a stark contrast between the Cuba he left and the America he came to.

“The nation I came from was destroyed by socialism, was destroyed by Marxism, which basically destroys individual responsibility, makes everybody a ward of the government, so it destroys the dream,” he said. “One of the greatest things about America is the American Dream. This is a country where, with hard work and perseverance, everyone can achieve their dreams.”

It disappoints Cruz to see Bernie Sanders, a socialist, performing so well in the Democratic Party primaries. And it saddens him to see that Americans younger than 30 now prefer socialism over capitalism, according to a recent YouGov survey.

If they prefer socialism, they’ve got a surprise coming, according to Cruz.

“Socialism has never worked,” he declared. “If we look at the lessons of history, socialism is a failure because it destroys individual incentive. If you work twice as hard as I do and you get paid the same, how long are you going to do it?

“So what happens is nobody works, productivity goes down to nothing, there’s a scarcity, and so what do they do? They try to increase taxes more and more and more to provide more social services. But you know, as Margaret Thatcher said years ago, the problem with socialism is sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

Cruz believes it is not socialism but God’s Word that will keep America free.

“We are founded on the basis and the foundation of the Word of God, and that foundation works and that was the same foundation that is the bedrock of the Constitution of the United States of America,” he said. “That’s what has kept us as the freest nation in the world, and the nation that God has used to share the gospel with the rest of the world.”

SPECIAL OFFER: Get an autographed copy of Rafael Cruz’s powerful new book, “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” at a discounted price, from the WND Superstore.

The interview:

WND had reported in 2015 when a ruling from U.S. District Judge David Bunning appeared to advance Obama’s move to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship.”

He ordered Rowan, Kentucky, County Clerk Kim Davis to violate her deeply held religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment, and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He noted she was able to attend the church of her choice and believe what she wanted, but she could not practice her religion in her job.

A big list of prominent faith leaders also had joined to ask Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to fix that problematic document that references “worship” rather than “religion” on that exam for newcomers to the country.

“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 recent letter 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 issue by the Weyrich Lunch participants. The group is named after the late chairman of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation Paul Weyrich.

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, where 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, where 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 actually drew attention in Congress.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., charged during a recent hearing that included Johnson that the government is “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.


Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.