A Republican senator from Oklahoma pressed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at a hearing Wednesday about why the U.S. is “misrepresenting” Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion to immigrants who are applying to become U.S. citizens.
“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.
Lankford was referring to the department’s decision to include “freedom of worship” instead of “freedom of religion” as a basic American right listed in the civics test that all immigrants must take to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
“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.’”
The Daily Signal reached out to U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services inside the Department of Homeland Security for comment on the civics test’s wording and they did not immediately respond.
Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who focuses on issues related to religious liberty, argued the difference between “freedom of worship” and “freedom of religion” is significant.
“This incorrect view of religious liberty argues that faith should remain a private affair—relegated to personal activities or weekend worship services,” she said. “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 take a look at changing it.