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Senator Lankford Secures Change to DHS Religious Freedom Language

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to change its documentation to accurately reflect America’s First Amendment right of freedom of ‘religion’, and not just freedom of ‘worship’. Last year, Lankford urged the Department to make this change. On Thursday, DHS issued a notice to the public that they are currently in the process of updating all relevant internal and external publications, including test study materials, to reflect this ‘freedom of religion’ change in terminology.

“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,” said Lankford. “At first glance, it appears like a small matter, but it is actually an important distinction for the Constitution and the First Amendment. 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.”

The DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test used to only reflect freedom of worship, however, DHS will now change the materials to read ‘freedom of religion’ to fully express America’s free exercise of religion. Question #51 of the civics test materials reads, “What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?” The study materials will now read ‘freedom of religion’ as the correct response. Based on reprinting schedules, they expect all materials to be updated by the end of 2016.

In a June 8, 2015 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Lankford highlighted this issue and requested the change. Also, during an April 29, 2015 Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing with Secretary Johnson, Lankford criticized the naturalization test and requested a change. During Lankford’s questioning, he said, “The USCIS questionnaire civics test has in it one of these things, ‘What are two rights of everyone living in the United States, and it listed out 6 different things: freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, freedom of worship, the right to bear arms. I’d love to see ‘freedom of worship’ switched to ‘freedom of religion.” We in the United States have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship.”

Senator Lankford serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and is co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and the first senator to join it. The Caucus works to protect the fundamental human right of religious freedom and guards the right of individuals to pray and practice their faith freely.