Mark Twain once said: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Words matter. This is especially true when it comes to the words of our Constitution. Those words are especially cherished. Yet in the past year it seems the Obama administration has changed one key word in that foundational document.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2010 report revealed grave concern about both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejecting the term “freedom of religion” for the term “freedom of worship” in public pronouncements. Why the change?
The First Amendment has two clauses about Freedom of Religion. The first part is known as the Establishment Clause, and the second as the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits Government from passing laws that establishes an official religion or preferring one religion over another. The courts have interpreted the establishment clause to accomplish “separation of church and state”. The Free Exercise Clause prohibits Government from interfering with a person’s practice of his or her religion. However, courts have ruled that religious actions and rituals can be limited by civil and federal laws. Religious freedom is an absolute right, and includes the right to practice any religion of one’s choice, or no religion at all, and to do this without government control.
November 2009, President Obama used the term “freedom of worship” at the memorial service for the victims of the Ft. Hood shooting. A few days later he did it again in speeches in both Japan and China. In December Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also used that terminology three times in a speech at Georgetown University and never once used the phrase “freedom of religion”. In January of this year Clinton used the “freedom of worship” term four times while addressing senators.
This change in phraseology could well be viewed by human rights defenders and officials in other countries as having concrete policy implications.” – U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2010 report.
That’s not an inconsequential change: Freedom of worship means the ability to have church services, which is crucial, but leaves out protection for Christian schools, publications, and Christian compassionate ministries…’Freedom of religion’ means that ministries designed to help prisoners change their lives, or to help the poor enter the workforce, can teach what the Bible teaches. Under ‘freedom of worship,’ these ministries could become illegal, as they are in many parts of the world. This is a development to watch warily. – World Magazine.
This President clearly sees religion as a key part of foreign affairs, especially when the Muslim world is involved. He is ultra-careful to not want to offend followers of Islam. We already know the administration has rejected the term “radical Islam” or any similar language and refuses to admit religion plays a major role in terrorism.
This new terminology of “freedom of worship” might be given as a sign to Muslim nations and places with Christian persecution like China that they are not going to crack down on religious persecution for minority religions in those countries. That could explain why Obama first used the term after a radical Muslim killed Americans at Ft. Hood. And it could also explain why he used the term in speeches in China and Japan.
In my opinion Obama’s goal is to accommodate some aspects of Sharia law in this country. Hillary Clinton’s goal is to make this country sign the UNITED NATIONS Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention is signed by 194 countries but not US and Somalia. While looking good on paper the effect of this convention is that the State (Remember “separation of Church and State”) has superior claim on the children, not the parents.
We are talking Freedom of religion versus Freedom of worship. Let me illustrate the difference. Many missionaries and ex-pats live in Muslim countries. They enjoy freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion. One of the tenets of the Christian Faith is the obligation, right and privilege to proclaim the Good News. You can worship without fulfilling the great commission, and missionaries in Muslim countries risk their very lives were they to proclaim the Gospel without first being invited to do so. Even in this country some Christians were arrested for handing out Gospels of John outside a Muslim festival in Dearborn, MI. . They exercised freedom of religion. Islam does by its very tenets not tolerate freedom of religion, but it does accept freedom of worship as a rule.