Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) (AP)
(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to change wording in its naturalization test materials to say “freedom of religion” instead of “freedom of worship” in relation to First Amendment rights, a step that Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) had been pushing for since last year.
Lankford initially wrote to DHS in June 2015 pointing out that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) study materials for the naturalization test listed the answer of “freedom of worship” as a “right of everyone living in the United States.”
Lankford wrote that it was his understanding that the term “freedom of worship” has been included in the materials since 2008, when USCIS deemed it “more inclusive” than the word “religion.”
“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,” said Lankford in his letter.
“Our forefathers came to America to have freedom of religion, not simply freedom of worship,” he said. “So valued, they made the free exercise of religion our first freedom.”
“The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship,” he explained at the time. “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 asked for an immediate change to the documents.
The DHS replied in a letter, received by Lankford on Thursday, that they are “in the process of revising our test study materials and Web content to reflect the change.”
In a statement on Friday, Lankford said, “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. 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. We live in a great nation that allows individuals to live out their faith, or have no faith at all. To protect freedom and diversity, we must carefully articulate this right throughout the federal government.”