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Oklahoma Senator James Lankford

Jeh Walking it back on Freedom


For seven years, the White House seems to have done a virtual find/replace for every administration policy. Where “freedom of religion” used to be, a more restrictive “freedom of worship” is now — including the text of the U.S. citizenship test. As part of the naturalization exam that prospective immigrants take, it seems Homeland Security made a few edits to the First Amendment. And Senator James Lankford  (R-Okla.) was not amused.

Back in June, Lankford sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson calling on the agency to correct the error. “The freedom of religion is much more than just the freedom of worship,” he argues. “Worship confines you to a location. Freedom of religion is the right to exercise your religious beliefs — it is the ability for Americans to live out their faith or to choose to have no faith at all.” It may seem like a minor change, but it’s had major consequences on Christian businesses, charities, service members, athletes, celebrities, teachers and others hurt by this narrow understanding of our First Freedom. Under the president’s term, the administration would have us pack up our Christian symbols, our biblical beliefs, and our free speech, and stash them in the church, where they could be quarantined. Senator Lankford thinks America should embrace the proud tradition of religious expression — not suppress it. And fortunately, DHS finally agrees.

On Thursday, ten months after the Oklahoma leader’s first request, DHS issued a notice to the public that they’re updating their material — including the test — to reflect the “freedom of religion.” It was a rare victory in two terms of frustration over America’s freedom to believe.

“I applaud the Department of Homeland Security for listening to me and deciding to change their material to reflect our First Amendment right of freedom of religion,” Senator Lankford said. “The ‘freedom of religion’ language reflects our right to live a life of faith at all times, while the ‘freedom of worship’ reflects a right simply confined to a particular space and location. We live in a great nation that allows individuals to live out their faith, or have no faith at all. To protect freedom and diversity, we must carefully articulate this right throughout the federal government.”

Hats off to Senator Lankford for making religious freedom the priority it should be!


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