Obama backtracks on ‘freedom of worship’ vs. ‘freedom of religion’

By Bob Unruh


The Obama administration routinely has cited “freedom of worship” as a right protected by the U.S. Constitution instead of “freedom of religion.”

It was early in Obama’s tenure that Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate misdirection regarding what the Constitution requires.

Catholic Online noted that in President Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, he spoke of a Muslim America and the nation’s “freedom of religion,” but by the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a homicidal Muslim, he was terming it “freedom of worship.”

From that point, “freedom of worship” has become the term of choice, the report said.

But now the administration is backtracking, at least in one instance.

Leon Rodriguez, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said in a letter to Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., that the agency now is accepting “freedom of religion,” in addition to “freedom of worship,” as a correct answer to the question, “What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?”

Lankford had asked for the change because of the agency’s use of “freedom of worship” on a naturalization test.

“On June 26, 2015, I responded that there were no plans to change the naturalization test or study materials,” Rodriguez told Lankford in a recent letter. “Upon further consideration, however, we have determined that making this change is feasible because it is a change in terminology rather than an addition or deletion of test content.”

Get “The Corruption Chronicles,” by Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, which describes “Obama’s Big Secrecy.”

Lankford charged last year during a congressional hearing 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:

[jwplayer ppKIJW16]

“The questionnaire civics test,” he said, “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.'”

Rodriguez’ letter said his agency was reviewing test study materials as well as Web content to reflect the change back to “freedom of religion.”

“In accordance with agency policy, if the applicant’s answer to a civics question is an ‘alternative phrasing of a correct answer,’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will continue to accept both ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘freedom of worship’ as correct answers,” he wrote.

Lankford told the Daily Signal, “It’s one of those small, incremental victories.”

Real consequences

Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.

See WND’s Big List of Christian Coercion about this very topic.

Just ask the New York landowners who were fined by the state for following their Christian faith regarding 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 supporting same-sex marriage.


Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869, which houses one of the world’s 20 largest pipe organs. It’s been the site of traditional and contemporary worship programs featuring speakers such as Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.

But it’s 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.”

In just the last few weeks, a new “uncivil war” has erupted over state efforts to protect religious freedom.

“Gay” advocates are insisting that Americans’ religious rights must be subservient to their rights to alternative sexual lifestyles. Several states have outlined plans to protect religious rights, and the homosexual community and its corporate sponsors have erupted in rage.

Proudly display your faith with a CHRISTIAN LIVES MATTER bumper sticker from the WND Superstore!

Companies that denounced a recent Mississippi law protecting religious rights include MGM Resorts International, Nissan, Toyota, Tyson Foods, AT&T, IBM and Levi Strauss & Co., CNN reported Tuesday.

“Bathroom bills that allow men to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms are nonsense. A biological man should use the men’s restroom. How simple can that concept be?” said Mathew Staver, of Liberty Counsel, which has been involved in the fight. “The North Carolina law did not address employment in the private sector. The relationship between private employers and employees remains free of local government interference, and remains regulated by the state. If private companies want to provide additional policies, they are free to do so. People should read the law and stop the histrionics.”

Cuba has ‘freedom of worship’

Rafael Cruz, the father of GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, also has raised alarms about the issue.

The author of the new book “A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America,” he warns that a change to “freedom of worship” would be devastating for America if the policy and practice follow the words.

“Most Christians don’t realize the danger of freedom of worship,” Rafael Cruz said in a recent interview 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 that 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, anyone who tries to spread the gospel outside the church building 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.”

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

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

The interview:

[jwplayer FqSPcCsG]

Bunning’s decision

WND reported in 2015 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 issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of her deeply held religious beliefs, protected by the First Amendment. 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 the problematic document that references “worship” rather than “religion” on the 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.

Leave a Comment