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Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom of Worship

06 January 2014, 07:58

The phrase ‘freedom of worship’ was first brandished about by Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton  in prominent speeches, replacing the constitutional guaranteed ‘freedom of religion’  but what are the implications in this seeming change in terminology.

Well, it’s certainly more than semantics or rhetoric at play, freedom of worship is what you do within the confines of the church, synagogue, or mosque, freedom of religion is what you do outside of these confinements, or  to use the more  apt phrase of  ‘freedom of expression’.

So, freedom of expression is bound up with freedom of religion, but freedom of worship is not inclusive of its expression outside places of worship.

The United Nations Declaration of human rights provides;

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in a community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion, or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

It’s implicit in this declaration that this is an individual right and not the preserve of any group.

A Catholic cardinal makes the interesting observation that freedom of worship was guaranteed under the constitution of the former Soviet Union. (USSR)

‘You could go to Church, if you could find one,  however it was the end of religious schools, hospitals,  publications, organized charities, and social services as these were all co-opted by the government, which in effect made the state the Church”

New laws were adopted in 1929 on Religious Associations, as well as amendments to the constitution, which forbade all forms of public, social, communal, educational, publishing or missionary activities for religious believers. 

Numerous other measure were introduced that were designed to cripple the church and make it illegal to have religious activities  of any sort outside of liturgical services within the walls of the few churches that would remain open, and even those were subject to much interference and harassment. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all illegal and/or banned.

After 1929, and through the 1930’s, the closing of churches, mass arrests of the clergy and religiously active laity, and persecution of people attending Church reached unprecedented proportions.

According to others, once the change in emphasis from religious freedoms to that of worship is accepted and effected, it would become easier for the state to legislate ‘away’ former constitutionally recognized freedoms.

So, clearly, this could be become the thin edge of the wedge, with a lot more at stake than is realized at a cursory glance.   


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