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-What’s the Difference: ‘Freedom of Religion’ vs. ‘Freedom of Worship’

by Dr. D ~ July 19th, 2010

US Constitution
(Image by Thorne Enterprises via Flickr)

I have read several articles in the last couple of weeks pointing out that President Obama has stopped referring to ‘freedom of religion’ in his speeches and has begun to use the term ‘freedom of worship’ instead. What’s the difference?

A lot.

Freedom of Religion

‘Freedom of Religion’ is defined in the US Constitution and has allowed for the ‘free exercise of religion’ in all aspects of American society unabated for over 200 years. Though we are seeing that freedom increasingly challenged in this generation.

America began with the concept that humans had certain rights given to them by their Creator and that the state should be limited in its power. Freedom of religion was one of those primary rights that the government was suppose to be forbidden to control. Lately some of those rights are being turned upside down including the right to publicly proclaim ones faith.

President Obama referred to the ‘freedom of religion’ in his speech last year in Cairo that was given for the benefit of the Muslim nations. Since then he has stopped using the term. Speculation has it that he was told that it was offensive to Muslims and that he should use the ‘freedom to worship’ designation instead since it is supported by the UN, the European Union, and most Islamic Countries.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also noted that shift in language and raised a flag on it in its 2010 annual report:

“Because of the policy implications of using ‘freedom of worship’ language, USCIRF urges President Obama, Secretary Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. government officials to return to invoking or embracing ‘freedom of religion or belief’ or similar language in all public statements and stress the universal nature of these and other rights.”

“In doing so, they should also explicitly affirm their commitment to broad protection of the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief in all its manifestations.”

Freedom of Worship

‘Freedom of Worship’ is far more limited and supported by a number of United Nations declarations. Also many Muslim countries with ‘sharia’ law claim to have ‘freedom of worship’. It can mean nothing more than the right to pray to the god of your choice in your own home or in a designated place of worship. There is no right under the ‘freedom of worship’ to publicly proclaim ones faith or evangelize those who are of a different religion nor a right to publish or use broadcast media to support ones beliefs.

In many Muslim countries Christianity can only be taught in a church building and Christian worship is only allowed in the church yet those countries claim to have ‘freedom of worship’. Also in most Muslim dominated countries it is illegal for Christians to try to convert a Muslim. Not only that, but to ‘defame’ Islam or the prophet Muhammad is a capitol offense most places in the Middle East. Christians have been arrested, beaten, put in prison, and even killed for merely stating that Jesus Christ was greater than Muhammad.

During the ‘cold war’ the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe maintained a so-called ‘freedom of  worship’. Christians were only free to worship in official state churches and forbidden to worship in the home or teach their children. No new churches were built during that time and thousands of Christians risked prison or greater by meeting together in house churches. This is still true in China today where house churches are more tolerated than they use to be but still illegal and subject to the whims of the authorities.

Conclusion

The use of the term- ‘freedom of worship’ seems rather innocent to most and interchangeable with ‘freedom of religion’ to the uninformed. But it clearly isn’t.

The President has a law degree and has taught Constitutional Law. There is no doubt that he is aware of the very different meanings of the two terms but has chosen for what ever reason to use the term ‘freedom of worship’ instead. Some believe that the choice could signal that the current administration would like to push the USA towards implementing a more ‘global’ and European understanding of religious freedom.         *Top of the Blog

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16 Responses to -What’s the Difference: ‘Freedom of Religion’ vs. ‘Freedom of Worship’

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    […] or we will find that our religious rights and freedom of religion will one day be limited to ‘freedom of worship’ within the four walls of an official worship center that meets all arbitrary city and state […]

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    […] in this election  considering that the present administration has consistently tried to limit Freedom of religion to mere ‘freedom of worship’ between the 4 walls of an official church or religious center. I really shutter to think of how our religious liberties […]

  5. -Rick Warren: President Obama ‘Infringed’ on Religious Freedom | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] amendment is perceived and interpreted when it comes to religious liberty. He supports the idea of ‘freedom of worship’ as a substitute for the traditional understanding of religious freedom. He seems to want to limit religious liberty to the four walls of a church or an official worship […]

  6. –Mr. President: Is It Freedom of Religion or Freedom to Worship? | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] brings to the table when talking about religious liberty. Most folks haven’t really noticed his substitution of ‘freedom to worship’ in place of freedom of religion. It is a far more important issue than many realize and it may actually represent this […]

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    […] In an interview, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, overseer of the Vatican’s highest court, said that President Obama is a ‘totally secularized man’ who is actually ‘hostile toward Christian civilization.’  He also accused the President of promoting anti-life and anti-family policies and trying to reinterpret and limit the traditional understanding of freedom of religion to freedom of worship. […]

  10. -The Call for Prayer in 2015 | CHARISMATICA

    […] but we are seriously in danger of losing our freedom of religion in this country or having it re-interpreted to merely be ‘freedom of worship’ within the four walls of an official church or house of […]

  11. -NY Times: Christians ‘Must be Made’ to Accept Gay Lifestyle? | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] and an ever increasing secular American culture where religious liberty is now understood to be limited to ‘freedom of worship’ within the four walls of ones own home or official place of […]

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    […] in ones own home or church and not practiced in the public square. In the process, accepting the re-definition of freedom of religion to ‘freedom of worship,’ limited and assigned to only apply within the four walls of a properly zoned place of […]

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    […] We have been writing on the issue of Freedom of Religion for over nine years. Lately we have been observing that religious liberty is under assault in America and the traditional understanding of the First Amendment is in the process of being redefined. Our greatest disappointment is that so many Americans appear to accept the substitution of ‘freedom of worship’ for the traditional understanding of freedom of religion. […]

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    […] We have been writing on the issue of Freedom of Religion for over nine years. Lately we have been observing that religious liberty is under assault in America and the traditional understanding of the First Amendment is in the process of being redefined. Our greatest disappointment is that so many Americans appear to accept the substitution of ‘freedom of worship’ for the traditional understanding of freedom of religion. […]

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    […] understanding of the 1st Amendment and freedom of religion should be re-interpreted as ‘freedom of worship’ which would restrict religious practice within the four walls of an official place of worship. If […]

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    […] against. Particularly conservative Christian folks who they would like to put into a non-public four-walls ‘freedom of worship’ closet. Down there is an increasing drumbeat from the left that ‘freedom of religion’ needs to be […]

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