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On Religious Freedom Day, FRC Reminds Pres. Obama that Constitution Guarantees More than 'Freedom of Worship'
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the nation celebrates Religious Freedom Day, Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins criticized the Obama administration's poor record on defending religious liberty. January 16 is celebrated every year as Religious Freedom Day because it commemorates the day in 1786 when the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was enacted. That law was famous for declaring the freedom of religious choice and free exercise to be "natural rights of mankind." Its adoption was a milestone in human history.
Of the Obama administration's record on the issue of religious liberty, Mr. Perkins said:
"Earlier today President Obama issued a proclamation declaring today 'Religious Freedom Day.' However, the first sentence of his proclamation emphasizes the sacredness of the 'freedom of worship.' I would remind the president that the Constitution does not guarantee us only freedom of worship but also the freedom of religion. The two are very different. Freedom of religion goes further by guaranteeing the right to live out one's faith not only in the privacy of his or her home but in the public square as well.
"While President Obama's proclamation extols the 'freedom of worship,' his administration has the worst record protecting religious liberty in American history.
"Last year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that, pursuant to Obamacare, employers would be required to provide sterilizations and contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions. This mandate has now culminated in the litigation involving the retail chain Hobby Lobby, which is privately owned by a Christian family, the Greens. Their company will soon face Obamacare penalties of approximately $1.3 million per day because of the Obama administration's mandate restricting the free exercise of their religious beliefs.
"The Obama administration's Health and Human Services Department also stopped supporting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their efforts to combat human trafficking. Previously the USCCB had been the primary recipient of HHS grant funding on the issue of human trafficking, but despite career HHS staff recommendations, the Obama administration's HHS department cut the USCCB's funding. The administration did so by changing the requirements of the grant to include language indicating that strong preference would be given to groups that provide abortions. The Obama administration put abortion ahead of religious liberty, and trafficked women suffer for it.
"President Obama's record of defending religious liberty overseas has been terrible as well. When in late 2011 the Egyptian army and government forces killed 28 Coptic Christians who were peacefully protesting in Cairo's Maspero area, the U.S. reaction was disturbingly muted, and ignored the fact that Coptic Christians had been killed while protesting previous acts of religious intolerance and violence. The Obama administration's remarks stand in sharp contrast with their pointed, forceful comments regarding two attacks on a mosque that took place in northern Israel at roughly the same time.
"The State Department has refused to declare Boko Haram, the vicious Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group operating primarily in Nigeria, to be a 'foreign terrorist organization.' Boko Haram espouses the establishment of a Sharia-based government, and has reportedly killed at least 3,000 Nigerians, mostly Christians, since 2009. Those on both the left and right are incredulous that the administration failed to take this step.
"So it is, on this Religious Freedom Day, that we should cast a skeptical eye on President Obama's professions of support for religious liberty and look to his actions to understand his relative lack of sympathy for the free exercise of religion."