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Freedom of Worship vs. Freedom of Religion

save_freedom_worship-43-NRThere is much ado lately about the few times in the past three years when President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the phrase "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion." The term was good enough for FDR to include in his Four Freedoms in a speech before Congress on January 6, 1941 - "the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - anywhere in the world," as he wrote it himself. The same term is now Exhibit A for those prosecuting the charge that the Obama administration is set on subverting the freedom of religion.The case was made in 2010 atFirst Things:

Recently, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been caught using the phrase freedom of worship in prominent speeches, rather than the freedom of religion the President called for in Cairo.If the swap-out occurred only once or twice, one might appropriately conclude it was merely a rhetorical accident. However, both the President and his Secretary of State have now replaced freedom of religion with freedom of worship too many times to seem inadvertent.

Rick Santorum is in on it, too:

"When you have the president of the United States referring to the freedom of religion, and you have the secretary of State referring to the freedom of religion, not as the freedom of religion but the freedom of worship, you should get very nervous, very nervous," he told students at Hope College, a Reformed Church school.

"Because there's a lot of tyrants around the world who will talk about freedom of worship, but they won't talk about freedom of religion. Freedom of worship is what you do within the four walls of the church. Freedom of religion is what you do outside the four walls of the church. What the president is now seeming to mold, in the image of other elitists who think that they know best, is to limit the role of faith in the public square and your role to live that faith out in your public and private lives."

But a quick check of government Web sites finds that, in fact, the Obama administration continually uses the phrase "freedom of religion." For example, Clinton started off her remarks at a conference last December by speaking of the need to protect "two fundamental freedoms the right to practice ones religion freely and the right to express ones opinion without fear." That would seem to cover the territory, twice over.

She continued:

At the same time, as we strive to protect individuals from violence and discrimination because of their religion or their beliefs, we must also express the freedom of expression. Now, in the United States, we take that especially seriously because many of those who came to our country came for religious reasons. They came because they were being discriminated against or their religion was being outlawed. They started coming in the 17th century, and they still come all the way through the 21st century.

Well, how would one know that you were being discriminated against if you didnt have the right to freedom of expression? Your neighbor knows, well, that person is different from me because he or she believes differently. So the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression are absolutely bound up together [emphasis added].

One quickly finds steady use of the term "freedom of religion" on the White House Web site as well. "Our Nation's enduring commitment to the universal human right of religious freedom extends beyond our borders as we advocate for all who are denied the ability to choose and live their faith," President Obama said in a proclamation. " My Administration will continue to oppose growing trends in many parts of the world to restrict religious expression."There are many other examples - here and here and here and here and here and here and here and others. I could find only two references to "freedom of worship." Both paired the term with freedom of speech (as FDR also did).The terms "freedom of worship" and "freedom of religion" are often used interchangeably. There is a difference in meaning, but the effort to take a few remarks out of context and spin them into a massive conspiracy against civil rights - threatening enough to make us "get very nervous" - lacks a basis in reality.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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I've not followed this little tempest, but my impression, in passing, is that what's being objected to is a sudden recent change in language. Are you saying that "freedom of religion" is turning up frequently in speeches and government handouts in the past few weeks?Of course, even if it was a conscious change with a sinister meaning behind it, now that it's been outed, it'll probably disappear.

I should have specified; the claim is that the shift came after Obama's speech in Cairo in 2009. There was attention to this in 2010, and it seems to have been picked up a lot in the past week or two.

Thanks for this Peter. I agree completely that this particular tempest is of little or no significance. It has made me start thinking though whether, when we talk about freedom internationally, a narrowing of freedom of religion might not be a desirable approach. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, freedom of religion means very different things for men as women. That phrase can be heard in many different ways in different parts of the world. Perhaps the rhetoric of freedom of worship rather than religion tout court wouldn't be the worst thing in the world given this situation.

Paul, I have no idea why I wrote Peter there. Sorry about that.

Well I think there is a difference between freedom of religion and freedom of worship because worship is a more limited concept than is religion, but the question is: Did FDR use freedom of worship when he meant freedom of religion. What is the cultural context of freedom of worship in the '30's and '40's and does it easily translate into freedom of religion? Today we speak of freedom of religion because we know there is religious pluralism. In this sense freedom of religion embraces freedom of worship. Does freedom of worship embrace, in the same way, freedom of religion? It may be a case of putting Descartes before the horse.

If the complaints started in 2009 and "worship" hasn't been consistent since then, this sounds made up. Perhaps it's a groping for tangible manifestations of something that people feel is there but can't quite put their fingers on. Could be that at some point the speech writers in several government cubbyholes decided to run "worship" up the flagpole and see who saluted, or maybe someone heard Obama say he preferred "worship" or maybe they just ran out of "religion"s and forgot to reorder.Of course, it could be that the people who noticed the "worship"s were particularly keen observers, able to correctly deduce a lot from what to most looked like a little. Mysteries abound.

Spotting half-baked ideas in among anti-Obamaites is too easy.

I'm so relieved to know the Administration uses both terms makes them losing 9-0 in Hosana-Tabor so much more understandable. Take that, Justice Kagan.

I should have specified; the claim is that the shift came after Obamas speech in Cairo in 2009. Assuming the speech was addressed to the whole Islamic world, that would include countries like Saudi Arabia in which "freedom of worship" is banned by the government - no Christian churches can be built and no public Christian services can be held. Pressing for "freedom of worship" in those countries would be a practical advance over the present siutuation. It is less threatening than "freedom of religion" which sounds as if we would be asking Islamic countries to permit Christian missionaries to proseyltize in their countries and encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity - which would be both a sin of apostasy and, in some countries, a crime punishable by death. Cujus regio, eijus religio.

Im so relieved to know the Administration uses both terms interchangeablyit makes them losing 9-0 in Hosana-Tabor so much more understandable. Take that, Justice Kagan.Jeff Landry,The Hosanna-Tabor case was a holdover from the Bush Administration.

More partisanship 0n display -wil only get worse as 2012 moves on.Yuck!

More evidence of the right-wing echo chamber at work. Even the conversation here on this blog is a small victory for those who toil regularly to shape public discussion and debate."Hey, let's try and plant the idea out there in the blog-o-sphere that the Obama administration is in someway "anti-religion."Yet another confirmation of having learned how to read at age five, I made the choice not to be a Republican.

Interesting piece by Kevin Clarke (of America) in today's WaPo on "Lent, in a time of Catholic culture wars."

David NickolRe: your comment (The Hosanna-Tabor case was a holdover from the Bush Administration) in response to Jeff Landrys comment about the Obama administrations position on Hosanna-Tabor that Jeff Landry.I presume you based that opinion on a comment made at law blog Mirror of Justice by brennan (which you quoted at the First Things website on 1/11/12 ). A subsequent comment by an anonymous poster, with which Richard Garnett agreed, refuted that claim. (See below the formers comment (A) followed by Professor Garnetts response (B):A:In response to brennan in particular, and to everyone regarding the federal government's position as extreme or not:brennan suggests that (1) a lack of extremism is shown by the case's origins in the Bush years and (2) the EEOC, not the administration, shares significant responsibility for the position taken. While both points might sound plausible, neither works here.(1) While the federal government/EEOC sided with Perich all along, it took the new, extreme position only at the Supreme Court. In the trial court and the appeals court, they accepted the existence of the ministerial exception, and argued only that Perich fell outside it on the facts of her case. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the federal government argued that the exception does not exist at all, other than as a "freedom of association" claim, with literally no difference from what a union or political party would have. That was the radical part, because it means that the Religion Clauses have no role here. It went beyond the EEOC position below. It went beyond the consensus in every circuit court, adopted by panels of "liberal" and "conservative" judges. It shocked several justices, such as Justice Kagan, who asked at oral argument about how radical that was.I believe that Prof. Garnett, along with most critics who labelled the federal government's position extreme, focused not just on the "siding with Perich" aspect, but on the specific argument that the exception does not exist at all. While I agree with Prof. Garnett that the position is extreme, and you are all free to disagree, the position cannot fairly be described as continuation of the litigation position below.(2) This position cannot be attributed much, if at all, to the EEOC. As I understand it, agency influence is highest at the trial court, where the decision is to file a complaint or not, to enforce or not on given facts, etc. It is lowest at the Supreme Court, where the Solicitor General is looking at a position that affects the entire government and the country. Agency influence is also highest regarding its regulations, medium regarding statutes relating to the agency, and lowest regarding constitutional law. The Solicitor does not give much weight to agency views regarding the First Amendment.The more relevant question is not the EEOC role, which is minimal at this stage, but the relative roles of the SG and the White House. The SG is often fairly independent, so one might see this as the SG's view rather than the White House's. However, evidence suggests that the White House's influence rises with a case's political sensitivity. Certainly that happened with the Bush White House counsel calling the SG on the Bollinger cases, and is happening now with health care.Therefore, this position does seem to be the Administration's, not the EEOC's, and it is definitely not the one taken by the EEOC in the same case earlier.---- end of A ---B: "another view" is correct: I did not suggest (and I have never heard anyone suggest) that it was "extreme" to side, at the outset of the litigation, with Perich. What was extreme -- and former Obama SG Justice Kagan agrees it was extreme -- was the position taken by the government in the Supreme Court.---------------------- Also, in regard to Paul Moses' reference to a First Things article on the use of freedom of worship as having been made this week, the article was published in February 2010. In a subsequent comment Moses correctly notes that the claim is that the shift came after Obamas speech in Cairo in 2009 and added There was attention to this in 2010, and it seems to have been picked up a lot in the past week or two. That does not read as an acknowledgement that the article was written in February 2010 and addressed speeches made up to that time. But in any event, the entire article, which references Thomas Farr as an authority, is well worth reading. An excerpt:As Tom Farr, Professor of Religion and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the former head of the State Departments International Religious Freedom Office, stated at a recent congressional hearing forecasting international religious freedom issues to watch in 2010, Those of us in the business of sniffing out rats know that this is a rhetorical shift to watch. Freedom of worship first appeared in a high profile speech in Obamas remarks at the memorial for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting last November, a few months after his Cairo speech. Speaking to the crowd gathered to commemorate the victims, President Obama said, We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. Given the religious tension that marked the tragic incident, it was not an insignificant event at which to unveil a new way of referring to our First Freedom.Shortly after his remarks at Ft. Hood, President Obama left for his trip to Asia, where he repeatedly referred to freedom of worship, and not once to freedom of religion.Not long after his return, freedom of worship appeared in two prominent speeches delivered by Secretary Clinton. In her address to Georgetown University outlining the Obama Administrations human rights agenda she used freedom of worship three times, freedom of religion, not once. About a month later, in an address to Senators on internet freedom at the Newseum, the phrase popped up in her lingo once again.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. Its about the right to dress according to ones religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers dont go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarvesyet freedom of worship would protect none of these acts of faith.BTW, as for Thomas Farrs credentials, see

Sorry for the error re the date of the First Things article; it was 2010.

The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship. Its about the right to dress according to ones religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize,Ay, and there's the rub. Your chance of making any progress on convincing Saudi Arabia to allow non-Muslims to evangelize in their country is about zero. Your chance of getting them to allow 'freedom of worship" has at least some chance of getting somewhere. It's important to distinguish between messages discussing the United States, where we already have committed to 'freedom of religion," and messages addressed to foreign countries that haven't made it even as far of "freedom of worship".

From the Gipper:Ronald Reagan. In the first two quotes he may have been conscious that that he waqs talking about foreign countries. IN the last, he was talking about America, but probably didn't attach any deep significance to using "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion" Speaking at the United Nations on Jan. 30, 1988, he condemned the Evil Empire.Religious intolerance, particularly in the Soviet Union, continues to deprive millions of the freedom to worship as they choose.And heres the Gipper, speaking at the Vatican after meeting with Pope John Paul II:Perhaps its not too much to hope that true change will come to all countries that now deny or hinder the freedom to worship God. And perhaps well see that change comes through the reemergence of faith, through the irresistible power of a religious renewal. For despite all the attempts to extinguish it, the peoples faith burns with a passionate heat; once allowed to breathe free, that faith will burn so brightly it will light the world.And the Great Communicator, again, at the 1988 Republican Convention:I know Ive said this before, but I believe that God put this land between the two great oceans to be found by special people from every corner of the world who had that extra love for freedom that prompted them to leave their homeland and come to this land to make it a brilliant light beam of freedom to the world. Its our gift to have visions, and I want to share that of a young boy who wrote to me shortly after I took office. In his letter he said, I love America because you can join Cub Scouts if you want to. You have a right to worship as you please. If you have the ability, you can try to be anything you want to be. And I also like America because we have about 200 flavors of ice cream. Well, truth through the eyes of a child: freedom of association, freedom of worship, freedom of hope and opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness in this case, choosing among 200 flavors of ice cream thats America, everyone with his or her vision of the American promise.

YES! Freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion.The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic.The Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses as an example is not benevolent and won't let you leave their organization in peace.If they try to ruin your reputation and break up your family for trying to get out then they are a cult!Whenever you surrender your logic and reason to anyone who asks you to trust them because they know better and to please donate generously, it's a cult. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.... -Danny Haszard

The latest from the White House. They must be reading the blog...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEFebruary 23, 2012 Statement by the Press Secretary on the Case of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms reports that Iranian authorities reaffirmed a death sentence for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for the sole reason of his refusal to recant his Christian faith. This action is yet another shocking breach of Irans international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values. The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecutiona fundamental and universal human right. The trial and sentencing process for Pastor Nadarkhani demonstrates the Iranian governments total disregard for religious freedom, and further demonstrates Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens. The United States calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately lift the sentence, release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion. The United States renews its calls for people of conscience and governments around the world to reach out to Iranian authorities and demand Pastor Nadarkhani's immediate release.

PS: The boldface is mine.

Obviously the two phrases freedom of worship and freedom of religion are not the same thing.Freedom of worship refers to belonging to the church you choose, an important matter to be sure.Freedom of religion is the broader phrase of the two. It includes the freedom of worship of course, but it also refers more generally to actions taken by a person in the name of ones religion e.g., evangelization, social services, education, charity work.

Here are the articles of the Iranian constitution regarding the offial religion non-Muslims rights:"Article 12. [Official Religion]The official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver Ja'fari school, and this principle will remain eternally immutable. Other Islamic schools are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. These schools enjoy official status in matters pertaining to religious education, affairs of personal status(marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills) and related litigation in courts of law. In regions of the country where Muslims following any one of these schools constitute the majority, local regulations, within the bounds of the jurisdiction of local councils, are to be in accordance with the respective school, without infringing upon the rights of the followers of other schools.Article 13 [Recognized Religious Minorities]Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.Article 14 [Non-Muslims' Rights]In accordance with the sacred verse "God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes" [60:8], the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

That is from: exactly freedom of religion.

This one is not complicated.Anyone can readily see that the two phrases 'freedom of worship' and 'freedom of religion' do not mean the same thing.

Did anyone else note the irony in the language of the poster in the article?Save Religious Freedom.Buy War Bonds.I think the bishops have taken that advice literally.Up on the barricades!

Oops, I guess it actually said Save Freedom of Worship.No mention of warships, ecclesiastical or otherwise, though.

I suppose my view is that actions are more important than rhetoric. Whether they are examples of some conscious long-term attempt by the Administration to downgrade religious liberty, or whether they are standalone incidents, the HHS mandate is a problem, and the government's prosecution of Hosanna-Tabor was worrisome. But let me counterbalance that by pointing to this Steve Chapman column from yesterday. Headline: "Obama's Defense of Religion". Subhead: "How he's expanded freedom for the faithful". In reading the column, it's helpful to keep in mind that Chapman is conservative, with Libertarian tendencies, and so is not always overly sympathetic to the President., my take on the President is that he's got a religious dimension to his personal make-up, and it's a dimension that fits pretty comfortably with the Christian Left. Think contemporary mainline Protestant. I don't consider him to be an aggressive secularist, although aggressive secularists are political allies of his because psychographically he seems like one of them in many other ways, and politically he may need their support to win in November. Just as he needs support from progressive women. I believe this state of affairs accounts for the HHS mandate, Hosanna-Tabor, and the instances that Chapman describes.

I agree, Jim Pauwels. Actions are what actually count. As your your post and the link to the Trib show, it's more complicated than the two sides let on. Thanks.

I don't understand why the governments prosecution of Hosanna-Tabor is seen as "worrisome." It's not like the government set out to take away rights. A lay teacher was fired because of an illness and brought her case to the EEOC, whose job it is to pursue such cases. (Normally, I would think people of faith would be in favor of protecting people who get fired because of illness.) The EEOC lost the suit and appealed, won the appeal, and lost again at the Supreme Court. A very fine line was drawn, to include lay teachers as "ministers."Going forward, I assume Catholic lay teachers (for example) will have a harder time pursuing redress if fired. A two-edged sword; a very grey case. How can this in any way be seen as worrisome, as an attack on religion?

Hosanna-Tabor is also something begun under Bush, and like usual, the talking voices make it as something of Obama and his plan to destroy religious liberty. Silly, isn't it?

Hi, Jeanne and Henry, please see the lengthy comment/quotes provided by Michael J Kelly above. The content of the Solicitor General's argument before the Supreme Court is worrisome. If that argument reflects White House views on religious liberty, it is more worrisome.

JimOnce again, this was a Bush-era case which was being argued. So are you going to tell us Bush was secretly working to destroy religion in America now? Ignoring this and to make it all about Obama demonstrates the norm of Obama's detractors and shows why we can't have an honest conversation of the problem in America as a whole. The people screaming the most about religious liberty have been silent (or demanding its removal for others) for a long time now.

I think Jim Pauwels summary of the President's character has it basically right -- if one can really understand another's religious motivations. I've read that his theology is very Barthian which I don't understand), but it seems to include a relatively indeterminate concept of God and His relationship to the world, which at times, at any rate, allows for some contradictory moral judgments -- when you just dont' know what the will of God is, then what do you do? For politicians this must be a constant problem. They are constantly having to make moral decisions, and I can see how they might be tempted to waver about principles, or at least waver about which principles to apply.I don't share the common American idea that all politicians are greedy power-grabbing dummies. I think some of them really want to be public servants and to what is right. Hillary Clinton (of whom I haven't been a fan) is a particularly good example of a politician inspired by her religious beliefs. But who knows, (I'm starting to sound like David Smith :-)

"Once again, this was a Bush-era case which was being argued. So are you going to tell us Bush was secretly working to destroy religion in America now?"Henry - no.Read Michael J Kelly's comment above, particularly the paragraphs pertaining to the Supreme Court argument. The claim is that the federal government's position in front of the Supreme Court (argued by the Obama Administration) is quite different - and more worrisome - than its position at lower levels.

JimThe "claim is" we can dismiss the origins of the case. That's absurd. It was a Bush era case. This is exactly the problem -- the blindness involved with the claims about Obama, always painting him with things the GOP themselves did (and often did worse) and then making it as a new, evil campaign never heard of in US history.

It's worth noting that the SC decision in Hosanna-Tabor was quite narrow:The case before us is an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister, challenging her churchs decision to fire her. Today we hold only that the ministerial exception bars such a suit. We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers. There will be time enough to address the applicability of the exception to other circumstances if and when they arise.***The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important. But so too is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith, and carry out their mission.

Narrow, John, perhaps, but ample and sufficient. The executive branch had argued in a direction the entire Court found wrong. There's something odd about that. Either the President had very bad counsel or, what? Were they probing the Court, looking for ways to more profitably pursue other similar cases in the future? Were they making a gesture to please some people, knowing they'd lose but not caring? I have no idea, but something doesn't ring true.

This is issue has arisen since the mandate of employer-provided birth control, and that such birth control providence is mandated even to faith-based institutions that teach against birth control; specifically Catholic- owned and operated hospitals and medical centers. The problem is not only the different terms, but the fact that the left, including David Axlerod and other liberals , have actually defined in their own words what "Freedom of Worship" means. They have openly remarked that "freedom of worship" is only that which is done and observed within the physical walls of a temple, church, synagogue or mosque. There is an actual, real and active effort to remove true open religious expression, and relegate freedom of religion to one's weekly house of worship choice.

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