Morning Bell: Why Does Religious Freedom Matter?

Conn Carroll /

Last weekend NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg inadvertently created a mini-controversy when she said on Inside Washington: “I was at — forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice.” Some thought that Totenberg added “forgive the expression” as a cave to political correctness. But in fact Totenberg was actually mocking the Obama Justice Department. It was the DOJ that had officially called the event Totenberg attended a “holiday party” and Totenberg later told The Washington Post: “I think that’s kind of silly because it’s obviously a Christmas party. I was tweaking the Department of Justice. It was a touch of irony at the expense of the Justice Department, not at the expense of Christmas.”

So how did we get to the point that the Department of Justice can’t call a Christmas Party a Christmas Party? As part of The Heritage Foundation’s Understanding America series, Director of Domestic Policy Studies Jen Marshall explains:

Today, the religious roots of the American order and the role of religion in its continued success are poorly understood. One source of the confusion is the phrase “separation of church and state,” a phrase used by President Thomas Jefferson in a widely misunderstood letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802. Many think this means a radical separation of religion and politics. Some have gone so far as to suggest that religion should be entirely personal and private, kept out of public life and institutions like public schools. (more…)