Which is it? Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Worship

Which is it? Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Worship

Diane Robertson

The two terms: “Freedom of Religion” and “Freedom of Worship” sound pretty synonymous. But are they? In recent years, President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have often used the term, “Freedom of Worship” in place of “Freedom of Religion.”  What are the differences?

Worship is one facet of religion. The dictionary definition of worship is “reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. “

Basically, everyone in the world has some sort of “freedom of worship”. Worship is a belief. Most nations allow their citizens to enter a building such as a church or a synagogue to worship.  No government can change or remove a person’s beliefs. They may disallow church attendance, but they cannot change what someone thinks, feels, and believes.

“Freedom of Religion” is different. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects American citizens by refraining Congress from making laws that would prohibit “the free exercise” of religion.

Worship is only part of religion. Religious people use their beliefs and doctrines as a way to act and behave in many aspects of life. Freedom of Religion is about being allowed to live and act according their religion and according to their conscience.

Religious freedom allows the freedom to “exercise” religion in the public square. It does not confine religious worship to a home or a church.

If the government takes away the right to practice faith, whether by subtle shifts or by laws that are more drastic, the people forfeit what the Constitution has protected.

Laws are being made all over that are limiting “Freedom of Religion”–the freedom to act on religious convictions.

In 2006, Elane Huguenin, the photographer for Elane Photography Inc., and co-owner of the company with her husband Jon Huguenin, declined a lesbian couple’s request to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony. The Huguenins are Christians who believe that God designed marriage as one man and one woman, and that defining marriage is the best way for societies to help children and adults. This is their personally held belief. In acting on their conscience and religious beliefs, the Huguenins refused to allow their company’s photography services to be used to promote a message that was not in accordance with their religious beliefs. Believing they had the legal protection granted under the first amendment, they thought that would be the end.

Instead, the Huguenin’s received paperwork from the State of New Mexico explaining that a complaint of “sexual orientation” discrimination had been filed against their company. Because of a nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and transgenderism, the Huguenin’s have lost their case in both courts. This non-discrimination law clearly goes against the first amendment that prevents Congress from making laws that would prohibit “the free exercise” of religion.

Alliance Defending Freedom Lawyers, who believe that the first amendment protects business owners and that religious freedom should be held above sexual freedom, have appealed the case to the New Mexico Supreme Court, and plan to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Business owners across the nation have found themselves in similar situations. Students in Public universities and schools have found that they are not allowed to express a religious opinion. Slowly, non-discrimination laws are taking away the religious freedom that the Constitution protects. If these laws are not worked against, “Freedom of Religion” will be replaced with “Freedom of Worship”, and no one will be allowed to act on their religious convictions.

Please consider all the implications in your own life and take a stand for “Religious Freedom.”





  • Anastasia
    Posted at 17:20h, 19 July

    I myself am concerned about the difference between these two freedoms…the distinctions are important! While I think that the photography business mentioned above is strange for not accepting a client due to their sexual orientation, I also find it deplorable that they were essentially forced to provide their services. Had I been one of the lesbians, I’d simply have taken my hard earned money elsewhere and not recommended that particular business to anyone. After all, a happy client tells 10 people, an unhappy one tells 50.

    I also would not want my future children (or current younger siblings) to grow up in a world where we cannot rent out a park for our ceremonies, hide our pentacles, or be scorned for our beliefs as Pagans. I may not agree with Christian/Jewish doctrine, but I have friends who do. I’d no sooner wish their rights to be taken away than my own!

  • Amy
    Posted at 10:41h, 20 July

    How long until pro-life doctors are sued for not performing abortions or church leaders are sued for not marrying homosexual couples?! This is a terrifying trend.

  • Meagan
    Posted at 14:07h, 27 July

    Definitely agree, have you noticed that lately that the same-sex marriage movement has a shut-it-down policy? For example the recent Chick-fil-A thing and Chicago and Boston mayors said they can’t build stores in their cities anymore just because one of the higher-ups mentioned the sanctity of marriage in a public statement? How long before that’s applied to religions?

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