A Verbal Sleight-of-Hand

A Verbal Sleight-of-Hand

Joshua 1: 9

By: Mike Stokes


“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”  {John Adams}


In certain Federal Government circles a new phrase is being used lately, “Freedom of Worship.” Actually, this is a substitute phrase for, “Freedom of Religion.” On the surface, the difference appears to be insignificant. However, many people begin to pay close attention to this change. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted the change in phrasing. ‘Freedom of Worship’ is a much narrower view of religious liberty. According to the (USCIRF) report in 2010 the new language signals “concrete policy implications.” The policy implications goes to our First Amendment Right of religious-freedom principle.


I will attempt to show the difference in this phrasing. Under international law, worship is a limited right within a church body, it does not include public evangelism. Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights explains, “It protects teachings, practice, worship, and observances” but it does not mention public preaching.


Along with changing ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘freedom of worship’ comes the clash with faith-based organizations. For example, a Christian drug-rehabilitation center for troubled youth could not enter into partnership with the federal government to minister to these youth unless the faith-based group agreed to never consider faith when hiring employees. In 1993 a bill called ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed congress and signed into law, in 2000 the Department of Justice amended the bill to include faith-based groups, enabling them to apply for federal grants without being required to hire unbelievers, including homosexuals. The ramifications are clear, the change in language may signal a chipping away at our Freedom of Religion Right, one of those changes many didn’t see coming.


I consider the struggle over religious freedom a serious issue, at this point, things don’t look so good for us, one might say, the issue is in doubt. In 2010 the federal government supported a gay-rights group for international acceptance, helping them to be recognized as a legitimate non-government-organization (NGO). This group has publicly suggested criminal penalties for those who oppose homosexuality. We know about the Justice Department current refusal to defend the ‘Defense of Marriage Act.’


We will need Divine help to meet this challenge, there are “giants in the land.” Our source of help is not based in Washington, but a much higher power base, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1: 9).


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