Marking the anniversary of when the First Amendment right to “freedom of religion” was introduced, Sen. James Lankford is pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to change language used in a U.S. citizens exam.
“It is my understanding that the answer choice ‘freedom of worship’ has been used since 2008, when [the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services] was advised that the word ‘worship’ was more inclusive than the word ‘religion,’” Lankford, R-Okla., wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson today.
Not only is ‘freedom of worship’ inconsistent with the text of the amendment proposed 226 years ago today, [but also] saying that ‘freedom of worship’ is more inclusive than ‘freedom of religion’ flies in the face of a pillar upon which our entire nation was founded.
Lankford was referring to a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to list “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, and using the same language in accompanying study materials.
Although the dispute is over just one word, Lankford, co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, argues the difference is substantial.
“The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship,” he said. “Worship confines you to a location. Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs—it is the ability for Americans to live out their faith or to choose to have no faith at all.”
“The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship,” said @SenatorLankford.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to The Daily Signal the “freedom of worship” text was adopted on October 1, 2008, following a multi-year “redesign effort.”
“During the redesign of the naturalization test, [the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services] consulted several scholars and experts in the fields of American history and political science to ensure civics items and answers developed for the redesigned test were accurate,” the spokeswoman said. “[The Office of Citizenship] was advised that the word “worship” was more inclusive than the word ‘religion.’”
In his letter, Lankford requested the naturalization test and its corresponding materials are “immediately” changed “to correctly show that Americans have the right to the free exercise of religion.”
As of May, the Department of Homeland Security had said it has no “immediate plans” to revise test items.