Monday, July 26, 2010

Freedom of Worship; A Change in Terminology. Should We Be Worried?

According to this story, the Obama Administration has begun using the phrase “freedom of worship” in place of “freedom of religion” and according to Randy Sly, the author of the story, this is something of a concern.

From the story –
The change in language was barely noticeable to the average citizen but political observers are raising red flags at the use of a new term "freedom of worship" by President Obama and Secretary Clinton as a replacement for the term freedom of religion. This shift happened between the President's speech in Cairo where he showcased America's freedom of religion and his appearance in November at a memorial for the victims of Fort Hood, where he specifically used the term "freedom of worship." From that point on, it has become the term of choice for the president and Clinton.

In her article for "First Things" magazine, Ashley Samelson, International Programs Director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, stated, "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." In the administration's defense, Carl Esbeck, professor of law at the University of Missouri, is quoted by Christianity Today as saying, "The softened message is probably meant for the Muslim world, said. Obama, seeking to repair relations fractured by 9/11, is telling Islamic countries that America is not interfering with their internal matters."

Let's be clear, however; 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. Such limitations can unleash an unbridled initiative that we have only experienced in a mild way through actions determined to remove of roadside crosses, wearing of religious T-shirts and pro-life pins as well as any initiatives of evangelization. It also 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.
Sly isn’t alone in his concern, simply Google the phrase “freedom of worship” and you will find numerous articles along these same lines, but is the concern really a valid one. Giving the President the benefit of the doubt, I tend to think the choice of words was designed to soften the tone as Carl Esbeck suggested. That having been said, I don’t trust this administration (or any administration for that matter) so I can understand why those who harbor opposing opinions to that of the President would be leery. That also having been said, I truly doubt that we are going to see this administration strip away our religious freedoms. This is probably another case of people jumping the gun and making all sorts of doomsday type predictions based on a few words uttered by the President. It’s not like we haven’t seen this type of overreactions before.

Thanks to for the find.

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