‘Freedom of Religion’ vs ‘Freedom of Worship’

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, joined more than 60 other religious and conservative leaders in urging the federal government to uphold the Bill of Rights’ freedom of religion, not simply a so-called “freedom of worship.” Specifically, these leaders sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson noting that current materials provided by the Administration to immigrants who wish to be naturalized as U.S. citizens refer to “freedom of worship” as a right guaranteed to Americans.  Dr. Johnson and others signing the letter requested that Secretary Johnson move to correct this error.  They commented:

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.

Rather, the letter’s signers explained that true religious freedom is much richer.  It ensures the liberty for “every citizen—religious and non-religious alike—to live life in the public square according to the dictates of conscience or religious sensibility.”

Earlier this month, Senator James Lankford (R-OK), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a similar letter to Secretary Johnson.  He declared, “We are doing a great disservice to those seeking citizenship in this great country if we distort our history and fail to teach new citizens about the founding and constitutional principles of this nation…. Our Constitution is clear – Americans have the freedom of religion.  The naturalization test and its corresponding materials must be equally as clear.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 26, 2015

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