September 2, 2010
OK, so what's going on here? You may remember early in the summer, I, and other observers, squawked that the Obama Administration was playing fast and loose—possibly intentionally—with our most basic freedom: Freedom of religion.
It all started, you'll remember, with Hillary Clinton giving a speech at Georgetown in which she said people must be free to WORSHIP as they choose—and, by the way, to love any way they choose as well.
George Weigel was the first to notice the odd phrase "free to worship," not "freedom of religion." Well, it turned out that the President himself had started using the phrase "freedom of worship" shortly after his Cairo address to the Muslim world. When I pointed this out on my Two Minute Warning at the Colson Center, the video went viral—more than 170,000 people viewed it.
Freedom of religion, you see, means much more than freedom of worship. Freedom of religion means you can practice your faith in public; you can educate your children in the faith, you can evangelize. Imagine that in any Muslim country today!
Freedom of worship, however, is something less. It means you can worship how you please, so long as you keep it private. Citizens of the former Soviet Union could do that. And China has that law today.
So, it seems the Administration was deliberately soft-peddling freedom of religion. Why? My first thought maybe was to marginalize Christianity in public life here in America? That's not a whacky premise, given the increasing restrictions we see on religion here at home.
But more likely, I've realized, it's an effort to appease Islamic countries, where the American belief in freedom of religion is not appreciated.
So I was surprised, to say the least, when the President spoke recently to a Muslim audience about the Ground Zero mosque. He said the following: "I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."
And later he said, "This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable."
Well, folks, I gotta confess. I'm now really confused. After speaking about nothing but "freedom of worship" for nearly a year, suddenly, before a Muslim audience, the President speaks about religious freedom. Why the change?
There can only be three possibilities. First, maybe the Administration has heard the criticisms from many of us and now understands how important it is that the U. S. stand for freedom of religion at home and abroad. I'd like to think this is the case, but I doubt it.
Another possibility is that the Administration really doesn't get the difference between worship and religion. I certainly doubt that. The President and Hillary Clinton are skilled lawyers.
Another possibility is that the President was seeking to reassure Muslims that they can practice their religion here, but that he isn't advocating that Muslims give freedom of religion to others in their countries.
I'd love to hear the President or the Secretary of State clarify the Administration's stance on freedom of religion for all people. Let's hear it straight once and for all.
Folks, I really don't get it. I don't want to impugn anybody's motives. But why the deliberate confusion? Do you have any ideas? Is it perhaps freedom of religion for some, and freedom of religion for others? Why?
Come to BreakPoint dot org and click on "Speak Out with Chuck." Give me your feedback. If you can figure this out, I want to hear from you. And I'll broadcast the best answers.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.