Originally Published in the August 13, 2014 edition of The Chadron Record.
Freedom of worship is the new freedom of religion. It’s the phrase of choice for many U.S. leaders (all the way to the White House) and media pundits. It might appear as mere semantics, but the two terms are not the same. In fact, the lingo cloaks a massive ideological shift when it comes to
Freedom of worship means that people are free to gather in the place of worship that they choose and to worship as they like in those venues. The government will not pass laws which govern the way people worship in their houses of worship; a Christian can be a Christian in church, and a Jew a Jew in the synagogue, and a Muslim a Muslim in a mosque. Or at home. Just keep it in those locations! Don’t bring your religious views with you into the public square.
This ideological shift from the Framers’ idea of religious freedom is present in Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion in the recent Hobby Lobby case. Not only did Justice Ginsburg quite alarmingly dismiss the religious convictions of the Green and Hahn families (their beliefs are “too attenuated to rank as substantial.” – wow!), she also argued that religious liberty does not extend to the public square; to the policies that small business owners establish or the convictions which guide them.
Of course, they are free to have religious convictions – just keep it in church! That is not freedom of religion. The First Amendment guarantees that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Restricting the exercise of religion to a venue (your home, a synagogue, church, mosque, etc.) is, in fact, prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The Constitution of the United States guarantees me the right to live as a Christian everywhere that I find myself (which is what it means to be a true Christian!). That means, in most circumstances, the government cannot force me to compromise my religious convictions.
(Note: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 addresses the rare occasions when a compelling state interest should trump a religious conviction).
Freedom of worship is not a suitable replacement for freedom of religion. In fact, it’s a thinly veiled assault upon freedom of religion. And it simply won’t do.