Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Freedom of worship but not of religion?

Terry Mattingly, reporting on a conference about religious freedom, calls attention to a troubling distinction between "freedom of worship" and "freedom of religion" appearing in the speeches of some of our political leaders - including the Secretary of State. Thomas Farr, quoted below, is director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
.... Clinton’s speech contained repeated references to freedom of “worship,” but none to freedom of “religion.” She also argued that “people must be ... free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose.”

Thus, the Secretary of State raised sexual liberation to the status of religion and other central human rights, said Farr. This evolving political doctrine is now shaping decisions in some U.S. courts.

“Powerful members of our political class are arguing,” he noted, “that there is no rational content of religion; that religious freedom means the right to gather in worship, but not to bring religiously informed moral judgments into political life; that religious freedom must be balanced by the right to love as one chooses, and that to make religious arguments against that purported right is unconstitutional.”

In other words, argued Farr and other speakers, there is more to America’s current debates about religious liberty than clashes between religious groups and the Obama White House over Health and Human Services regulations that require most religious institutions to offer health-insurance plans that cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved forms of contraception, including so-called “morning-after pills.”

The larger civic argument, however, focuses on whether government officials can decree that “freedom of worship” is more worthy of protection than “freedom of religion,” a much broader constitutional concept.

After all, the HHS mandate recognizes the conscience rights of a religious employer only if it has the “inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

In other words, “freedom of worship” protects a nun when she prays for people with AIDS, but she may not be protected by “freedom of religion” when caring for non-Catholics with AIDS in a ministry that hires non-Catholics. .... [more]
Christianity Today: "Stop Dividing "Worship-Oriented" From "Service-Oriented," nearly 150 Religious Leaders Tell HHS:
.... In a letter sent Monday (June 11) to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the 149 religious leaders note that they hold differing views on “the moral acceptability” of birth control and on the viability of various administration proposals to allow faith-based groups to bypass the mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage.

But they said they share a strong objection to the language that defines which "religious" groups are eligible for an exemption, saying the definition creates a “two-class system” of religious groups: churches, which qualify under the wording of the exemption, and “faith-based service organizations,” which may or may not qualify.

"This two-class scheme protects those religious organizations focused on activities directed inward to a worship community while offering little religious freedom protection to the many religious organizations that engage in service directed outward,” the letter says.

The letter says that “both worship-oriented and service-oriented religious organizations are authentically and equally religious organizations. ... We deny that it is within the jurisdiction of the federal government to define, in place of religious communities, what constitutes true religion and authentic ministry.” ....
Another threat to religious liberty comes primarily from the political Right: Fears of ‘Creeping Sharia’ - Matthew Schmitz - NRO

tmatt.net » Blog Archive » Freedom of “worship” vs. “religion” — again, Christianity Today Liveblog: Stop Dividing "Worship-Oriented" From "Service-Oriented," Nearly 150 Religious Leaders Tell HHS