Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Worship? Obama Shifts His Words

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When President Obama spoke in Cairo some months ago, his language was strong on the subject and he used the term "religious freedom."

Since that time he has consistently used a slightly different phrase when talking about the same subject. He is now using the term, "freedom of worship."

At first I thought I was overly concerned and didn't mention it in any of these blogs.

However, I recently became aware that there are a number of other more qualified observers who are also concerned about this shift in words. They believe it could represent a shift in his policy plans.

In fact the
Catholic Online published an article last Friday expressing concern about this very thing. They also quoted others who follow such things and are also expressing concern.

They are urging members of their churches to be vigilant, notice the shift in words and be aware that, "These small changes can be used to change our perception of rights and freedoms."

Following the Cairo speech, President Obama dropped the term freedom of religion and began using, exclusively, freedom of worship. He first used the phrase, "freedom of worship," at the memorial for the Fort Hood victims. From that point he has exclusively substituted "freedom of worship" for "freedom of religion."

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also began using the same term at the same time.

Ashley Samelson is quoted in this article as saying this shift in linguistics is troubling. "The reason," she says, "is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship."

Indeed. Religious freedom is about preaching, teaching, evangelizing, kosher foods and a whole list of acts related to one's expression of religious freedom, that would not be protected under "freedom of worship."

Christianity Today suggests that President Obama is attempting to present a "softer" message to the Muslim world, hoping to build bridges with his words.

The Catholics make the point that 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 confines of a church, a temple, synagogue, etc.

And such limitations, they say, could unleash an unbridled imitative that we have only experienced in a mild way through actions directed at removing roadside crosses, wearing religious T-shirts and pro-life pins as well as various kinds of evangelization outreach.

It could also negatively impact our right to raise our kids in our faith, the right to religious education, literature, the right to raise funds for church related ministries and activities and the right to express our religious beliefs in the normal discourse of living our life.

Some may think we are making too much of this, however, I don't think so and neither does human rights lawyer Nina Shea, a Senior Scholar at Hudson Institute.

She says, "I'm very fearful that by building bridges, we're actually stepping away from this fundamental principle of religious freedom. It is so critical for Western, especially American, leaders to articulate strong defense for religious freedom and explain what that means and how it undergrids our entire civilization."

Mark Twain was fond of saying, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a larger matter---it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

What seems like a little shift in language can become a tipping point for our religious freedom.

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Free.

God bless you.

Gary Randall
Faith and Freedom

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  1. This is an odd blog entry, coming from a writer who routinely advocates against the freedom of religion.

    The very foundation of the freedom of religion is the separation of church and state -- something Gary claims does not exist or should be dismantled.

    It is this separation that guarantees that no single religion will gain the power of the government to force its will on the people. It is this guarantee that allows all Americans to choose their own religious belief and to freely live its values.

    So "fredom of religion" or "freedom of worship" -- why do you care?


  2. Seems to me that if you really wanted freedom of religion, you would think a religion should have the freedom to build a temple anywhere they chose, even in the heart of NYC near 911 ground zero.

  3. Odd? Tony, read the text. Gary and others are concerned that the President may be wanting to insert government regulations into all aspects of religion except the actual worship experience. A huge difference between freedom of religion and freedom of worship. Thank you, Gary, for your insights. It helps us remain vigilant and active.

  4. Words. Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. Pearl Strachan

  5. Jesus Christ said "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

  6. Thank you Gary. We are standing with you as you advocate for righteousness and freedom.

  7. @4:33 -- My comments stand and you did not address my question. Gary says he is worried about losing religious freedom, but he open advocates a Judeo-Christian America that would offer religious freedom only to those who follow his form of Christianity. All others are outsiders. It is not religious freedom that Gary wants for America. His consternation over Obama's words is disingenuous at best.


  8. Gary's idea of religious freedom only applies to religion activity he agrees with, otherwise, how could he try to keep another religion from building a temple too close to the 911 site via government intervention?

  9. Tony. Gary advocates for the Christian influence that has been evident in America from its founding. That Christian influence allows freedom for all religions.Religious freedoom is the golden egg. Christian beliefs are in effect, the goose that provides the egg. Secularism has never provided the kinds of freedoms we have here in America. If I get what Gary is saying, I don't understand why you are having a struggle getting it. You may disagree with him, but I have never seen him advocate that only Christianity should be practiced. I have heard him speak publicly and there was no hint of that. If that were the case, I would agree with you. That is not the case.

  10. Has the church as a whole abused their freedom of religion in this nation? I don't think so. It seems to me that we've only begun to exercise such freedom.

    Has the government been overstepping their bounds as concerning the practice of religion in America?

    I think they often have. It seems to me to be a "liberty" they have been abusing. They may be loosing it.

    I really don't know why we don't hear of senators, governors and such encourage students in public schools to practice their religion whenever they have free time that is really theirs, whether to read religious material, pray, or talk to another student about the goodness of our Maker.

    Learning to practice these things are important for personal growth and maturity. It helps develop proper social skills that the young student will need throughout life.

    Personal development should be important to every educator.

    Educators should be there for the students to see that each student is treated fairly in all matters that take place on school property during school hours, able to hear matters between students, willing to plead the cause of any treated unfairly by any other, as much as they are able, without partiality or hypocrisy.

    Virtues such as mercy, truth, justice, kindness, patience, temperance, and peace should be of interest to all educators in the public school system.

    If our elected officials do know that our constitution protects freedom of religion, why is it we don't hear of those that go to the schools to teach them of these constitutionaly protected values?

    So many of them talk of better education and want to spend more money on it, but money isn't the greatest of riches. Though it is often needed, it isn't the answer for everything.

    We've seen some elected officials with the children as they learn to read and that's good. I think there's more work to be done.

    There's a constitution they need to learn about.


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