"Freedom of worship" has recently replaced the phrase "freedom of religion" in public pronouncements from the Obama administration. Experts are concerned that the new rhetoric may 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. 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 and "freedom of religion" once when quoting an earlier Obama speech.

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 co-religionists; 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."

The State Department does acknowledge that worship is just one component of religion, said spokesperson Andy Laine. "However, the terms 'freedom of religion' and 'freedom of worship' ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
The Christian Atheist Subscriber Access Only
Believing in God but living as if he doesn't exist.
RecommendedUS Prepares to Deport Hundreds of Iraqi Christians
US Prepares to Deport Hundreds of Iraqi Christians
American veteran faces forced return to dangerous homeland that two-thirds of his fellow believers have fled.
TrendingFinding My 'True Self' As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
Finding My 'True Self' As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman
In my young-adult struggle with sexual identity, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me floundering.
Editor's PickForgive Us Our Debts: How Christian College Grads Pay the Price
Forgive Us Our Debts: How Christian College Grads Pay the Price
Evangelical schools work to capture the real cost of student loans.
Christianity Today
'Freedom of Worship' Worries
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.