It seems such a subtle distinction: “freedom to worship” as opposed to “religious freedom.” The phrase, “freedom to worship,” started appearing in 2010, and in 2013, President Obama made the following remarks in his address for the annual Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day:
Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.” He then refers to the history of this right. “Because of this protection by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose.”
It seems as if the president is equating the two, doesn’t it? But Sarah Torre says there are not the same, and equating the two is dangerous. In fact, it’s a lie.
Americans have increasingly faced attempts to water down this robust understanding of religious freedom to a mere “freedom to worship.”
Through expansive government mandates and cultural pressures, this incorrect view of religious liberty argues that faith should remain a private affair—relegated to personal activities or weekend worship services. Step outside the four walls of a home or house of worship and robust protection of religious freedom ends.
Where is this “freedom to worship” a most egregious lessening of our rights? Torre illustrates with the Obama administration’s unrelenting pursuit of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the attempts to force this group of Catholic sisters to include coverage of birth control and abortion for the members of the order and their employees. (The recent Supreme Court decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, granted some family-owned businesses exemption from the HHS mandate regarding birth control and abortion, but does not cover non-profit religious groups, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters of the Poor provide care for the aged poor around the world.)
Torre warns that the loose “freedom to worship” could impact health-care professionals and their right to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their religious beliefs and consciences. She also says that our “ever-expanding government” is forcing many Americans to violate their beliefs regarding marriage.
A couple who runs a farm in upstate New York was fined $13,000 for declining to rent their family farm for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Others involved in the wedding industry, like photographers, florists and cake makers, have been hauled into court for declining to use their artistic talents to participate in same-sex weddings. Facing coercion by state governments to place children with same-sex couples, some Christian adoption agencies have even been forced to end foster care and adoption services rather than abandon their belief that children do best with a married mother and father.
“Freedom to worship” means you can do whatever you wish, so long as it’s in your house of worship. Leave those confines, and your right to practice your faith is subject to government override.