Friday, July 30, 2010

Can a Simply Word Harm Freedom of Religion?

During more recent references to the U.S. rights as spelled out in our Constitution, both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have been changing one word in a phrase that has previously been taken for granted. Instead referring to "freedom of religion" they have used the phrase "freedom of worship." It may be worth watching this development.

I have pointed out many time in this blog about the use of "separation of church and state" instead of the actual wording of our Constitution's First Amendment. The Amendment says Congress may not interfere with the free exercise of religion. The Founders debated the wording for quite a while and there were several drafts. They did not take words lightly.

I have spoken often about the misuse of the phrase "separation of church and state," which was used once by Thomas Jefferson in a letter describing one protection of the First Amendment. But in his letters to the Founders who were writing the Constitution (Jefferson was in France at the time) he used the phrase "freedom of religion" to say why the First Amendment was so necessary.

Does one little matter? Have you noticed how those who favor keeping abortion legal in almost all circumstances do not talk about killing a baby in the womb. The term "fetus" has come to be used for decades. Aborting a fetus has a somewhat different ring that terminating the life of a baby. But if a "pregnant couple" goes through a miscarriage, they never talk about losing a fetus. That same entity is considered a baby by the couple who wants it - but the person who does not want it calls it a fetus. In the Roe v. Wade decision, I can find no mention of the word "baby" but 20 or so of the word "fetus."

Religious people have expressed concern over the change from "religion" to "worship" in the speech of such high-level officials. Does it mean anything? Will it result in fewer rights for religious exercise? Time will tell.

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