Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose. Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the Statute affirmed that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.
Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As a free country, our story has been shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers. Our patchwork heritage is a strength we owe to our religious freedom.
Americans of every faith have molded the character of our Nation. They were pilgrims who sought refuge from persecution; pioneers who pursued brighter horizons; protesters who fought for abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. Each generation has seen people of different faiths join together to advance peace, justice, and dignity for all…
Now, dignity for all just requires religious people to provide birth control and morning-after pills free of charge for anyone they may employ.
Tim Carney notes an interesting word choice:
Obama edits “free exercise of religion” to “right to worship.” Telilng.
— Timothy P Carney (@TPCarney) January 16, 2013
Worship is a very specific form of “exercise.” “Free exercise” covers a lot more ground. Out of curiosity, I checked a Bush-era Religious Freedom Day proclamation, and it does use the more traditional and expansive “free exercise of religion.”
The Obama proclamation continues:
As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.
“This distortion of our nation’s first freedom is the justification for the HHS mandate and the reason that 44 separate cases now have been brought against the federal government,” Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for The Catholic Association said.
“The Constitution guarantees Americans the right to practice their faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether at church, home, school or work.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has the scorecard for which religious business owners have been able to get an injunction for their persecution— nine injunctions granted and five denied. There are 43 cases, and the Becket Fund is doing the work of representing many of the plaintiffs. You can support them at the link.