‘Freedom of Religion’ Replaced With ‘Freedom of Worship’ On Immigration Exam

A little change can make a big difference in what it means to be an American says
Senator James Lankford, (R-OK) and he would like to know why a little change was made to the citizenship test that immigrants my take and pass to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

The issue has to do with the First Amendment that reads, in part, that people have a right to “Freedom of Religion. Sen. Lankford wants to know why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) changed the First Amendment’s “Freedom of Religion” language with the bureaucratic choice of “Freedom of Worship” as a basic American right listed in the civics test that all immigrants must take to become citizens.

And Sen. Lankford went straight to the top for an answer.

In questioning before Congress in late April, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson was asked by Lankford why DHS is “misrepresenting” Americans’ First Amendment right to “freedom of religion” to immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship.

“We in the United States actually have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Johnson yesterday during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing.

“The [U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services’] questionnaire civics test has in it one of these things, ‘What are two rights of everyone living in the United States, and it listed out six different things: freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, freedom of worship, the right to bear arms,” Lankford said. “I’d love to see ‘freedom of worship’ switched to ‘freedom of religion.’”

Kelsey Harkness writing for The Daily Signal, a Heritage Foundation publication, contacted U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security for comment on the wording change but did not receive an immediately respond.

Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in issues related to religious liberty, argued that the difference between “freedom of worship” and “freedom of religion” is significant. Torre said:

“This incorrect view of religious liberty argues that faith should remain a private affair—relegated to personal activities or weekend worship services…” “Step outside the four walls of a home or house of worship and robust protection of religious freedom ends.”

Lankford, co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, said the phrasing has been that way for “over 10 years,” and that he’d “love” for Johnson to change it back. We contacted Sen. Lankford’s office to determine the status of his request about the wording change with DHS but have not heard back as we go to press.

Morgan is a freelance writer for a variety of publications covering popular culture, societal behavior and the political influences of each.