Freedom of worship or freedom of religion?

Terry Mattingly points to a shift in language and of thinking that could be devastating to religious liberty:

With the sounds of protests echoing across the campus, President Barack Obama knew his 2009 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame would have to mention the religious issues that divided his listeners.

“The ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt,” he said. “It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us.”

With this sweeping statement Obama essentially argued that religious faith contains no rational content and, thus, offers no concrete guidance for public actions, noted Thomas Farr, director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University. This would shock America’s founding fathers or anyone else who has used religious doctrines and arguments in favor of human equality or in opposition to tyranny.

The president’s views were even more troubling when combined with remarks weeks earlier at Georgetown by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said Farr, during a conference sponsored by the American Religious Freedom Program of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The daylong event drew a variety of scholars and activists including Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mormons and others.

Clinton’s speech contained repeated references to freedom of “worship,” but none to freedom of “religion.” She also argued that “people must be … free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose.”

Thus, the secretary of state raised sexual liberation to the status of religion and other central human rights, said Farr. This evolving political doctrine is now shaping decisions in some U.S. courts.

“Powerful members of our political class are arguing,” he noted, “that there is no rational content of religion; that religious freedom means the right to gather in worship, but not to bring religiously informed moral judgments into political life; that religious freedom must be balanced by the right to love as one chooses, and that to make religious arguments against that purported right is unconstitutional.”

via tmatt.net » Blog Archive » Freedom of “worship” vs. “religion” — again.

Mattingly goes on to discuss the recent manifestation of this shift from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship”:  The Obamacare contraception/abortifacient mandate, which exempts “houses of worship” but not religious individuals or religious institutions that minister to outsiders.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    So I’m trying to track down Hillary Clinton’s “freedom of worship” speech, and having to wade through page after page of Google results to find it. Most of those results (surprise!) are conservative blogs echoing one another, and crying “the sky is falling!” because Ms. Clinton used the word “worship” instead of “religion.” But I did finally find it. It’s from December 14, 2009:

    Link / U.S. Department of the Antichrist

    Reading Ms. Clinton’s words in context (an international context – from the Secretary of State – go figure!) I think there may have been some concern on her part for the way “freedom of religion” might be understood by others outside America. Like, say, certain Middle East jihadists. We’re all fine with them being free to worship. Yes? But being free to practice their religion? Maybe not so much. (Guantanamo anyone?)

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming: the Obama war on freedom of religion.

  • Tom Hering

    So I’m trying to track down Hillary Clinton’s “freedom of worship” speech, and having to wade through page after page of Google results to find it. Most of those results (surprise!) are conservative blogs echoing one another, and crying “the sky is falling!” because Ms. Clinton used the word “worship” instead of “religion.” But I did finally find it. It’s from December 14, 2009:

    Link / U.S. Department of the Antichrist

    Reading Ms. Clinton’s words in context (an international context – from the Secretary of State – go figure!) I think there may have been some concern on her part for the way “freedom of religion” might be understood by others outside America. Like, say, certain Middle East jihadists. We’re all fine with them being free to worship. Yes? But being free to practice their religion? Maybe not so much. (Guantanamo anyone?)

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming: the Obama war on freedom of religion.

  • Tom Hering

    Oh, and how Mr. Farr makes the jump from “to love in the way that they choose” to “sexual liberation” is going to have to be explained to me.

  • Tom Hering

    Oh, and how Mr. Farr makes the jump from “to love in the way that they choose” to “sexual liberation” is going to have to be explained to me.

  • aletheist

    Right now I happen to be reading The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, by Phillip E. Johnson, and its main thesis is that the modern naturalist/materialist mindset essentially denies that religion has any cognitive content whatsoever. Given that the book was published in 2000, this is hardly a new development; in fact, Johnson traces it back at least 100 years. As a result, in Johnson’s words, “The most effective argument that the most intelligent materialists make against Christian theism is not that they know the gospel to be false but that they know that it is safe to disregard the gospel whether it is true or false. This keeps the issue of true or false off the table.”

  • aletheist

    Right now I happen to be reading The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, by Phillip E. Johnson, and its main thesis is that the modern naturalist/materialist mindset essentially denies that religion has any cognitive content whatsoever. Given that the book was published in 2000, this is hardly a new development; in fact, Johnson traces it back at least 100 years. As a result, in Johnson’s words, “The most effective argument that the most intelligent materialists make against Christian theism is not that they know the gospel to be false but that they know that it is safe to disregard the gospel whether it is true or false. This keeps the issue of true or false off the table.”

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I follow Mattingly’s blog and this isn’t the only time he has noticed this turn of phrase occurring from people in the administration and in the press when speaking of 1st amendment rights. So while yes this particular speech has an international flavor it is bleeding over into domestic policy making. The HHS ruling is a glaring example of how it is bleeding over.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I follow Mattingly’s blog and this isn’t the only time he has noticed this turn of phrase occurring from people in the administration and in the press when speaking of 1st amendment rights. So while yes this particular speech has an international flavor it is bleeding over into domestic policy making. The HHS ruling is a glaring example of how it is bleeding over.

  • kerner

    One would think that the “right to love as one chooses” would include the ability to speak the truth to the beloved. Which would include telling the beloved the law, followed by the gospel. Which could, in some circumstances, mean telling someone that their sexual behavior is part of the sins that require God’s forgiveness.

    But I guess that isn’t what Hillary Clinton meant, or maybe she was just being unclear.

  • kerner

    One would think that the “right to love as one chooses” would include the ability to speak the truth to the beloved. Which would include telling the beloved the law, followed by the gospel. Which could, in some circumstances, mean telling someone that their sexual behavior is part of the sins that require God’s forgiveness.

    But I guess that isn’t what Hillary Clinton meant, or maybe she was just being unclear.

  • Jon

    @2 Tom, you live a very sheltered life, man.

  • Jon

    @2 Tom, you live a very sheltered life, man.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    in Johnson’s words, “The most effective argument that the most intelligent materialists make against Christian theism is not that they know the gospel to be false but that they know that it is safe to disregard the gospel whether it is true or false. This keeps the issue of true or false off the table.”

    Sounds pretty honest about the tactics.

    Since they can’t defeat the message, focus on defeating the messenger. The thing is Christians already concede that it isn’t their job to use their talents to “convert” people. Rather the Holy Spirit does the work on the conscience of the elect. Faith is a gift from God.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    in Johnson’s words, “The most effective argument that the most intelligent materialists make against Christian theism is not that they know the gospel to be false but that they know that it is safe to disregard the gospel whether it is true or false. This keeps the issue of true or false off the table.”

    Sounds pretty honest about the tactics.

    Since they can’t defeat the message, focus on defeating the messenger. The thing is Christians already concede that it isn’t their job to use their talents to “convert” people. Rather the Holy Spirit does the work on the conscience of the elect. Faith is a gift from God.

  • DonS

    The left has been trying to shove the practice of faith into the confines of church buildings on Sunday for a long time. The Obama administration, as evidenced by the Obamacare regulations we have been discussing regularly on this blog, has been moving the ball significantly in that direction, purposefully. You don’t need to look at their speeches to see what is happening — look at their actions.

  • DonS

    The left has been trying to shove the practice of faith into the confines of church buildings on Sunday for a long time. The Obama administration, as evidenced by the Obamacare regulations we have been discussing regularly on this blog, has been moving the ball significantly in that direction, purposefully. You don’t need to look at their speeches to see what is happening — look at their actions.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I think we really need to wake up to the fact that this nation, having cast off its historical Christian influence, is joining the rest of the world in looking at Christianity as an affront and an obstacle to what they want.

    The Bible (and the New Testament in particular) makes it quite clear that this world, this system of thinking and doing embraced by the majority of humankind, is always going to hate Christianity. Why are we so surprised when things like this happen? This world is born in sin. It does not love God. It does not honor God. It does not worship God. It does not recognize Jesus Christ as exclusive Savior of mankind through faith in His work on the cross. It spurs the law and scoffs at the gospel, and will do so until the final day when Christ Himself descends from heaven.

    I’m no eschatological worry wart, but I’m also not so naive as to think we can be chummy with the world and still remain faithful to God. It cannot happen and will not happen, and to be frank if the world seems to be wholesale embracing any professed Christian or professed brand of Christianity, a red flag would go up in my mind.

    We are not of this world; we ceased being of this world the day God regenerated our hearts. We belong to Him. This world is no longer our friend, folks.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I think we really need to wake up to the fact that this nation, having cast off its historical Christian influence, is joining the rest of the world in looking at Christianity as an affront and an obstacle to what they want.

    The Bible (and the New Testament in particular) makes it quite clear that this world, this system of thinking and doing embraced by the majority of humankind, is always going to hate Christianity. Why are we so surprised when things like this happen? This world is born in sin. It does not love God. It does not honor God. It does not worship God. It does not recognize Jesus Christ as exclusive Savior of mankind through faith in His work on the cross. It spurs the law and scoffs at the gospel, and will do so until the final day when Christ Himself descends from heaven.

    I’m no eschatological worry wart, but I’m also not so naive as to think we can be chummy with the world and still remain faithful to God. It cannot happen and will not happen, and to be frank if the world seems to be wholesale embracing any professed Christian or professed brand of Christianity, a red flag would go up in my mind.

    We are not of this world; we ceased being of this world the day God regenerated our hearts. We belong to Him. This world is no longer our friend, folks.

  • http://andrewboll.com Andrew

    Don-
    That’s the whole mantra of secular humanism – “Let the people keep their ‘myths’ if it brings them comfort”…”Religion is all fine and good, in its own time and place, but keep it where it belongs…”
    The problem is, lukewarm versions of Christianity seem to be just fine going right along with this philosophy or modus operandi; when if fact it flies in the face of what Christ preaches to His disciples. Christianity is being slowly diluted; we need to wake up before the secular humanists have completely assimilated us into their “vision” of an impotent church that does nothing more than answer a few psychological and social needs before completely disappearing.
    I think we can take a lesson from Paul: although he suffers willingly and humbly for the sake of the Gospel, he also asserts his rights as a Roman citizen in order to protect the message he is preaching and shield others who believe. In the same way, we must fight for our freedom of speech so that we can be faithful stewards of the message God has given us.
    AB

  • http://andrewboll.com Andrew

    Don-
    That’s the whole mantra of secular humanism – “Let the people keep their ‘myths’ if it brings them comfort”…”Religion is all fine and good, in its own time and place, but keep it where it belongs…”
    The problem is, lukewarm versions of Christianity seem to be just fine going right along with this philosophy or modus operandi; when if fact it flies in the face of what Christ preaches to His disciples. Christianity is being slowly diluted; we need to wake up before the secular humanists have completely assimilated us into their “vision” of an impotent church that does nothing more than answer a few psychological and social needs before completely disappearing.
    I think we can take a lesson from Paul: although he suffers willingly and humbly for the sake of the Gospel, he also asserts his rights as a Roman citizen in order to protect the message he is preaching and shield others who believe. In the same way, we must fight for our freedom of speech so that we can be faithful stewards of the message God has given us.
    AB

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