In a special weekly address, celebrating the 4th of July, President Barack Obama said that Americans are free to "worship" as they please--which mirrors language in the Iraqi constitution, but contrasts with the First Amendment to our own constitution which denies government any power to prohibit "the free exercise" of religion.
Obama's reference to freedom of "worship" rather than "free exercise" of religion is not a new one--but it is a telling one.
Obama speaks of freedom of "worship" rather than the "free exercise" of religion because at this very moment--on this 4th of July--he is attacking the free exercise of religion and denying it to Christians of multiple denominations who insist that his administration has no right to issue regulations forcing them into complicity with the taking of innocent human lives.
Last week, Obama's Department of Health and Human Services issued the final version of a regulation that orders Catholics, and other Christians who share the Catholic view that abortion is evil, to buy health insurance that covers sterilizations, artificial contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs.
The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are all intrinsically immoral--and that abortion is a form of murder that Catholics cannot be involved in in anyway.
Accordingly, the Catholic bishops of the United States have said that the regulation ordering Catholics and other Christians to buy insurance coverage that pays for these things violates their First-Amendment-guaranteed free exercise of religion. The bishops have unanimously approved a statement declaring the regulation an "unjust and illegal mandate."
Additionally, dozens of Christian and Catholic organizations and business owners are suing the administration on the grounds that the regulation violates the First Amendment by forcing them to act against their faith.
At this moment, President Obama appears entirely ready to battle these claims all the way to the Supreme Court--with the apparent aim of establishing, with the complicity of the court, the authority of the federal government to command that Catholics and other Christians cooperate in the taking of innocent lives through the procurement of abortion-inducing drugs.
This would create a radical new precedent: That the U.S. government can order a Christian to act directly against the teachings of his faith, not just in any matter, but in a matter that compels the Christian to cooperate in the deliberate taking of innocent life.
"On July 4th, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal--free to think and worship and live as we please," Obama said in his Independence Day statement.
Article 43 of the Iraqi Constitution says: "First: The followers of all religions and sects are free in the: A) Practice of religious rites, including the Husseini rituals. B) Management of religious endowments (waqf), their affairs, and their religious institutions, and this shall be regulated by law. Second: The State shall guarantee freedom of worship and the protection of places of worship."
Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution says: "First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation: A) No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam."
The most recent State Department report on religious freedom in Iraq explains how the Iraqi vision of "freedom of worship" plays out in practice in Iraqi law.
"Government laws and regulations prevent the conversion of Muslims to other religions, require conversion of minor children to Islam if either parent converts to Islam, outlaw the practice of some faiths, and override religious tenets of individuals adhering to non-Muslim faiths," said the State Department.
Under the Obama administration's sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation, Catholics and other Christians will retain the freedom to go inside their churches and "worship" as they please, but in their daily lives, on the orders of the administration, they must heed the tenets of the modern secularist orthodoxy and pay insurance premiums that directly contradict the teachings of their own faiths by covering abortion-inducing drugs.
Obama has a long history of invoking what he erroneously describes as an America tradition of "freedom of worship"--rather than the true American tradition of "free exercise" of religion which is expressly guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.
Speaking at a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 10, 2009, for example, Obama said: "We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.
At an Oct. 10, 2008 campaign rally in Chillocothe, Ohio, he said: "Everybody here has somebody in their family somewhere in the past who maybe came from another country that didn't have freedom, but they said, you know what, if I go to America I can get freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of worship."
So too, at a Sept. 30, 2008 rally at the University of Nevada at Reno, Obama said: "They might've lived in a country where there was no freedom of speech, but they said, if I go to America, then maybe I'll have freedom of speech and freedom of worship."
At a June 13 hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University, explained the significance of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton similarly using the phrase "freedom of worship" rather than "religious freedom."
"In a 2009 speech, Secretary of State Clinton insisted that, and I quote, 'to fulfill their potential, people must be free to worship and to love in the way that they choose,' unquote," Farr testified. "Note that Secretary Clinton evokes the freedom to worship, not religious freedom. But worship is essentially a private activity with few of any civic or public policy implications. She implies that a right to love is a comparable right.
"The Obama Administration has weighed religious freedom against other right claims that it believes important such as the right to contraceptives and abortifacients, or to same-sex marriage, and has found religious freedom to be an inferior right," said Farr. "This helps to explain why, in its foreign policy, the administration has applied far more energy in its international pursuit of a right to love than it has religious freedom. It also helps to explain why our religious freedom policy is weak and under-resourced."
In his July 4th address, Obama said America is a "global defender of peace and freedom" and a "beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish those ideals."
But, in fact, under Obama's leadership, the current administration has been bringing to our shores an entirely foreign understanding of how government can limit the freedom of conscience, and thus prevent the free exercise or religion.
This is why Obama and his secretary state speak of the "freedom of worship"--words that can be found in Iraq's constitution--not the "free exercise" of religion, which is what our Founding Fathers, recognizing an unalienable God-given right that no government has legitimate authority to deny, enshrined in our Constitution.