A big list of prominent faith leaders from across America have joined together to ask 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.”
It’s because the Constitution doesn’t reference a “freedom of worship,” it’s correctly called “freedom of religion.”
And it makes a difference, the leaders explain in citing Michelle Obama’s agreement on the subject.
“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, dated this week, explains.
“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 assembled by the Weyrich Lunch participants. The group is named after the late chairman of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation Paul Weyrich.
He also was a founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the founding president of the Heritage Foundation and the National Chairman of Coalitions for America. A former reporter and radio news director, his organization’s biography explains, Weyrich was a regular guest on daily radio and television talk shows.
The inaccurate statement on the government documentation, 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 recent address at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., that followed the murder of nine members of a prayer meeting group 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.”
“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,” the signers said.
- Morton Blackwell, chairman, The Weyrich Lunch
- Colin A. Hanna, chairman, Coalitions for America, co-chairman, The Weyrich Lunch
- Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council
- Penny Young Nance, CEO & president, Concerned Women for America
- Phyllis Schlafly, founder, Eagle Forum
- Richard Viguerie, chairman, ConservativeHQ.com
- Gary Bauer, president, American Values
- Hon. J. Kenneth Blackwell, visiting professor, Liberty University School of Law
- Dr Alveda King, director, African American Outreach Priests for Life
- Tom Fitton, president, Judicial Watch
- Jim Martin, founder/chairman, 60 Plus Association
- Star Parker, president, Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE)
- Tim Wildmon, president, American Family Association
- Ron Robinson, president, Young America’s Foundation
- Mathew Staver, founder & chairman, Liberty Counsel
- Galen Carey, vice president, government relations, National Association of Evangelicals
- Jerry A. Johnson, Ph.D., president, National Religious Broadcasters
- Dan Schneider, executive director, American Conservative Union
- Rick Scarborough, president, Vision America Action
- Robert D. Thompson, administrator, The Weyrich Lunch
- Mark Tooley, president, The Institute on Religion and Democracy
- Faith J. H. McDonnell, director, Church Alliance for a New Sudan
- Ted Baehr, president, MOVIEGUIDE (R)
- Dr. Jim Garlow, senior pastor – Skyline Church, La Mesa, California
- Janet Porter, president, Faith2Action
- Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman, Traditional Values Coalition
- Andrea Lafferty, president, Traditional Values Coalition
- Susan Carleson, president, American Civil Rights Union
- Brian S. Brown, president, National Organization for Marriage
- Timothy Head, executive director, Faith & Freedom Coalition
- P. George Tryfiates, director of governmental affairs, Association of Christian Schools International
- Dr. Keith Wiebe, president, American Association of Christian Schools
- Fr. Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life
- Janet Morana, executive director, Priests for Life
- Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer, WND.com
- Kay Daly, president, Coalition for a Fair Judiciary
- Henry F. Cooper, chairman, High Frontier
- Dan Weber, CEO, Association of Mature American Citizens
- Phillip L. Jauregui, president, Judicial Action Group
- David Nammo, CEO & executive director, Christian Legal Society
- Bruce Chapman, founding fellow, Discovery Institute
- William J. Murray, chairman, Religious Freedom Coalition
- C. Preston Noell III, president, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
- George Landrith, president, Frontiers of Freedom
- Elaine Donnelly, president, Center for Military Readiness
- Ron Pearson, president, Council for America
- Larry Cirignano, American Catholic Citizens
- Alex St. James, executive director, Blacks Economic Security Trust (BEST)
- Mal Kline, executive director, Accuracy in Media
- Seton Motley, president, Less Government
- Kenneth R. Timmerman, president, Foundation for Democracy in Iran
- (COL) Ronald A. Crews, USA Retired, executive director, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty
- Dr. Carl Herbster, AdvanceUSA
- Shapri D. LoMaglio, J.D., vice president, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
- Robert K. Fischer, meeting coordinator for Conservatives of Faith
- Cathie Adams, president, Texas Eagle Forum
- Christopher R. Long, president, Ohio Christian Alliance
- John F. Tate, president, Campaign for Liberty
- Richard Ford, president, Heritage Alliance
- Day Gardner, president, National Black Pro-Life Union
- Demos Chrissos, president, Rapid Response Media
- Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president, Caucus for America and Author of Push Back
- Douglas E. Lee, Chaplain (Brig Gen) USAR (Ret), president, CALL
- Maurine Jensen Proctor, Meridian Magazine
- Arthur Schulcz, ICECE Counsel, International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers (ICECE)
- Willes K. Lee, vice president, National Federation of Republican Assemblies
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 recently got 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.
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 same-sex marriage.
Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869 to provide a place for Christian meetings and assemblies, which still operating 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.”