Posted by: Pastor Terry Hagedorn | July 26, 2010

Freedom of Worship vs Freedom of Religion

To the Editor:

“Freedom of worship” has recently replaced the phrase “freedom of religion” in public pronouncements from the Obama administration. Semantic antics? Or, does the rhetoric signal a policy change?

“Freedom of worship” first appeared in President Obama’s November remarks at the memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting. Days later, he referred to worship rather than religion in speeches in Japan and China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the shift in language, as well. In a December speech at Georgetown University, she used “freedom of worship” three times but “freedom of religion” not at all. While addressing senators in January, she referred to “freedom of worship” four times.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted the shift in its 2010 annual report. “This change in phraseology could well be viewed by human rights defenders and officials in other countries as having concrete policy implications,” the report said.

Freedom of worship means the right to pray within the confines of a place of worship or to privately believe, said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom and member of the commission. “It excludes the right to raise your children in your faith; the right to have religious literature; the right to meet with coreligionists; the right to raise funds; the right to appoint or elect your religious leaders, and to carry out charitable activities, to evangelize, [and] to have religious education or seminary training.”

In the case of the freedom of religion, while everything has to be done to avoid public disorder and conflict in order to uphold religious freedom, it should never be reduced simply as a strictly private, personal affair of freedom of worship.

Our First Amendment right guarantees that we have the right to public worship with others of like faith, to the religious training of our children, to publish and proclaim our faith, to evangelize and to be separate from the state and its interference in the free exercise of our faith.

One war–The Revolutionary War–was fought to guarantee that right. My prayer is that no one would try to take that right away.

Pastor Terry K. Hagedorn
Calvary Baptist Church
PO Box 282 Reedsville, WV
Ph. 304-864-3870

“Pointing Mountaineers to Mount Calvary.”


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