In a surprising revision coming from the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has changed its wording on religious freedom in its naturalization test materials. The DHS recently granted a request from Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) to change the words “freedom of worship” to “freedom of religion” in relation to First Amendment rights.
Lankford wrote to the Obama administration last year, explaining how the words used to describe religious freedom on the naturalization tests, which were changed in 2008, were not inclusive enough. He wrote, “Not only is ‘freedom of worship’ inconsistent with the text of the Amendment proposed 226 years ago today, saying that ‘freedom of worship’ is more inclusive than ‘freedom of religion’ flies in the face of a pillar upon which our entire nation was founded.”
The senator went on to write, “Our forefathers came to America to have freedom of religion, not simply freedom of worship. … Worship confines you to a location. Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs — it is the ability for Americans to live out their faith or to choose to have no faith at all.”
Lankford demanded an immediate change of wording, and even though the DHS originally declined his request, upon further review they concluded that it was “feasible.”
This is a change for the Obama administration as the president has repeatedly used the words “freedom of worship” in his public speeches instead of “freedom of religion.”
Senator Lankford praised the decision, saying, “I applaud the Department of Homeland Security for listening to me and deciding to change their material to reflect our First Amendment right of freedom of religion,” said Lankford. “At first glance, it appears like a small matter, but it is actually an important distinction for the Constitution and the First Amendment. The ‘freedom of religion’ language reflects our right to live a life of faith at all times, while the ‘freedom of worship’ reflects a right simply confined to a particular space and location.”