Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Randy Sly

7/19/2010 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Words matter - listen carefully to our current administration

Since the initially strong language on religious freedom used in President Obama's Cairo speech, presidential references to religious freedom have become rare, often replaced, at most, with references to freedom of worship. A purposeful change in language could mean a much narrower view of the right to religious freedom. Does this change of language indicate a change of policy? As Catholics, this is an area where we must remain vigilant. These small changes can be used to change our perception of rights and freedoms.

'Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.'

"Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

Article Highlights

By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/19/2010 (3 years ago)

Published in U.S.


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - 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.

In the Second Vatican Council's Declaration of Religious Freedom entitled "Dignitatis Humanae", the Church summarizes this right: "Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."

As we can see, the practice of religion permeates the very fabric of our lives. It cannot and should not be separated into approved and non-approved expressions. Unfortunately, such limits are being instituted across the globe. Samelson writes, "The effort to squash religion into the private sphere is on the rise around the world. "And it's not just confined to totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia. In France, students at public schools cannot wear headscarves, yarmulkes, or large crucifixes. The European Court of Human Rights has banned crucifixes from the walls of Italian schools."

The list of countries and limits is growing constantly.

Michelle Boorstein, religion reporter for the Washington Post, notes that "Knox Thames, director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom -- a Congress-controlled body tasked with monitoring religious freedom abroad - spoke at a recent briefing about the worry, reportedly saying he sees a change in lingo and that it's not an accident."

In presenting a forecast of religious freedom for 2010 to the House Subcommittee on International Religions, Human Rights and Oversight, Georgetown professor Thomas Farr stated, "Those of us in the business of sniffing out rats know that this is a rhetorical shift to watch." Farr was the former head of the State Department's International Religious Freedom Office.

Human rights lawyer Nina Shea, who is a Senior Scholar at the Hudson Institute, is also concerned. "I'm very fearful that by building bridges, we're actually stepping away from this fundamental principle of religious freedom. It is so critical for Western, especially American, leaders to articulate strong defense for religious freedom and explain what that means and how it undergirds our entire civilization."

Leonardo Leo, Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom made these remarks in the presentation of their 2010 Annual Report in April: "in the world of foreign policy and diplomacy, where every word is carefully chosen to convey meaning and interest, there is an even more important situation that could be taken by some in the world community as a signal that freedom of religion or belief is not a priority for the administration.

"USCIRF notes that since the initially strong language on religious freedom used in President Obama's Cairo speech, presidential references to religious freedom have become rare, often replaced, at most, with references to freedom of worship. The same holds true for many of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speeches.

"This change in phraseology could well be viewed by human rights defenders and by officials in other countries as having concrete policy implications. Freedom of worship is only one aspect of religious freedom and a purposeful change in language could mean a much narrower view of the right, ignoring such components as religiously motivated expression and religious education as well as ignoring incursions such as discrimination in government benefits and privileges or the creation of climates of impunity, where private religiously-motivated violence isn't prevented and punished."

Mark Twain used to say, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." As Catholics, this is an area where we must remain vigilant. These small changes can be used to change our perception of rights and freedoms. In retrosprect, the past hundred years gives us a number of significant issues in which this has already happened to one degree or another. Abortion, contraception, marriage, the family, and gender have all been re-engineered to fashion a new worldview.

What may seem an innocent shift in language now could possibly end up as a "tipping point" for our religious freedom. Make no mistake; this is the goal and desire of the many inside and outside our current administration.


 ------------------

Here is the shift to which we've referred:

In June 2009, the president highlighted religious freedom in his Cairo speech saying, "Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."

A few months later, in November, he was delivering remarks to the crowd gathered to remember the victims of the Fort Hood shooing when he said, "We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses."

On the heels of that speech, he then delivered another in Tokyo that same month stating, "The longing for liberty and dignity is a part of the story of all peoples. For there are certain aspirations that human beings hold in common: the freedom to speak your mind, and choose your leaders; the ability to access information, and worship how you please."

He traveled on to China, where in speaking at a "Town Hall" with future Chinese leaders he stated, "These freedoms of expression and worship -- of access to information and political participation -- we believe are universal rights."

This abrupt shift with reference to the constitutional freedom of religion was also noticed in the public discourse of Secretary Hillary Clinton. At Georgetown University in December 2009, she used the phrase three times.

"To fulfill their potential, people must be free to choose laws and leaders; to share and access information, to speak, criticize and debate. They must be free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose. In China, we call for protection of rights of minorities in Tibet and Xinxiang; for the rights to express oneself and worship freely.  And when a person is too hungry or sick to work or vote or worship, she is denied a life she deserves. Freedom doesn't come in half measures, and partial remedies cannot redress the whole problem."

In January 2010, Clinton delivered a speech about Internet freedom at the Newseum in which she used the "freedom of worship" theme several times: "Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. Now, at the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the troubles of his day."

[Editor's Note: In Roosevelt's famous "Four Freedoms" speech to congress on January 6, 1941, he did include term religion not worship in his list and then used "worship" later as a description - "No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion-- or even good business."]

"The freedom of worship usually involves the rights of individuals to commune or not commune with their Creator. And that's one channel of communication that does not rely on technology. But the freedom of worship also speaks to the universal right to come together with those who share your values and vision for humanity. In our history, those gatherings often took place in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. Today, they may also take place on line.

"But connection technologies like the internet and social networking sites should enhance individuals' ability to worship as they see fit, come together with people of their own faith, and learn more about the beliefs of others. We must work to advance the freedom of worship online just as we do in other areas of life."

-----

Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More U.S.

Alabama Supreme Court Recognizes Child in the Womb Has Fundamental Rights

Image of The Alabama Supreme Court

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights encompasses the moment of conception. Legal ... continue reading


Help Make the Story of the Serial Killer/Abortionist Kermit Gosnell Into a Movie Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In 1852, the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was invited to speak on the Fourth of July and delivered the now famous speech entitled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. Here is a stirring quote from that famous speech: 'For it is not light that ... continue reading


Their Eyes Were Opened: Walk With Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Watch

Image of On the Road to Emmaus: In the light of the encounter with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened. So it is meant to be with each one of us. The Holy Eucharist is more than a commemoration; it is an invitation into communion with the Living God - right now because Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead and walks with us on the road of life.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We are those disciples on the road to Emmaus, living our lives in the real world, walking along with Jesus who is always there accompanying us on the road, whether we recognize Him or not. He listens to us, and understands us, because he became like us, in "all ... continue reading


Made for Beauty: Liturgy and Music

Image of

By Deal W. Hudson

Some might flinch at my use of the word "satisfying" to describe a liturgy, but I used it deliberately because I want to think aloud about the fact that we were made for beauty as much as we were made for goodness and truth.  To be satisfied by the shape, ... continue reading


'COME AND TAKE IT' Texas AG blasts BLM scheming to seize state land, threatens fight Watch

Image of Texans are rallying against the federal government and its habitual overreach.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A major land war between the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Texas is brewing as Texas lawmakers push back against the feds plan to seize 90,000 acres of land along the Texas/Oklahoma border. AUSTIN, TEXAS (Catholic Online) - The Bureau of Land Management ... continue reading


SHOCKING NEW TWIST: Autistic boy defends teenage girls who filmed his sexual assault Watch

Image of The parents of the victim are insistent that they want their son's abuser, 17-year-old Lauren A. Bush to be tried as an adult.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Abused beyond belief by two teenage girls, who filmed their despicable activities with their cellphones, a 16-year-old autistic boy now says he doesn't want to press charges against them - concerned that it would damage their - "friendship?" LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Time to Live the Easter Way of Life Watch

Image of Easter is more than a Day; it is a way of living our lives in Jesus Christ. Darkness has been scattered by the Light which broke forth from that empty tomb. That Light is meant to infuse our daily lives with the radiance of Resurrected love.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The early Christians lived their lives in the Lord, for the sake of the world. They exhibited a holy boldness; because they internalized the faith they professed and allowed it to transform every aspect of their lives. They experienced the transforming power of ... continue reading


50,000-strong OK Militia declares they will resist federal takeover attempts Watch

Image of The Oklahoma Militia is ready to defend property against unlawful federal seizure.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Oklahoma militia which claims the allegiance of 50,000 members has sided with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his recent clash against the feds. Although the standoff appears to be over, and is not likely to resume, the militia says it is ready to defend the rights ... continue reading


BLOODY EASTER WEEKEND IN CHICAGO: Six children shot in widespread violence Watch

Image of Five of the six children wounded, aged from 11 to 15 years, were shot during a drive-by shooting Sunday night.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With 36 people wounded, and nine people dead, it was one of the most violent Easter weekends in Chicago within recent memory. Far more shocking was the fact that six young children were among those injured. Gang violence remains prevalent on Chicago's windy ... continue reading


Militant atheist organization seeks to ban schools from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance Watch

Image of The AHA says that the line

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An organization of militant atheists is suing a New Jersey school district of discrimination, on the behalf of a family who take offense to the line "Under God," within the Pledge of Allegiance. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The lawsuit against the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:11-26
11 Everyone came running towards them in great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9
2 even through the mouths of children, or of babes in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 24th, 2014 Image

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 24: Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter