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Letter: Writer stresses freedom of ‘religion,’ not of ‘worship’

To the editor,
The United States Constitution has been the backbone of arguably the most successful and most prosperous political experiment in history: the establishment of the U.S. government. Reading it makes me proud to be an American. Please don't hesitate to read and review it for yourself.
The First Amendment – in particular – is especially significant as it safeguards an individual's right to freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government. Although the amendment is so famous, there is a piece of it that has been misinterpreted lately. The amendment protects one's freedom of “religion” and not freedom of “worship.”
Often, people will replace “religion” with “worship,” but doing so significantly diminishes peoples' freedoms. “Freedom of worship” limits one's actions to those of private worship ceremonies, such as inside a building like a church, but a person can and should live out his or her religion everywhere and always, in public and in private.
For example, I don't just wear my necklace with a Christian cross pendant to church on Sunday, I wear it everyday and anywhere I go. Wearing it is part of how I practice my faith. I'm rightly not required to take it off before I go into a public building or before participating in a public act like voting on Election Day. I can live my faith constantly while still being a productive citizen and doing what I can to serve my country with the talents I have.
Public officials and their families should be treated no differently. Karen Pence, wife of our current U.S. vice president, should not be harassed for teaching art at a Christian elementary school. When Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein told a judicial nominee “the dogma lives loudly within you” (Sept. 6, 2017), referencing the nominee's religion and implying incompetence for such a position, the senator should have been rebuked by the whole Senate. Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (a 2020 presidential candidate) and Mazie Hirono asked questions concerning the religion of another judicial nominee (Dec. 5, 2018). Sen. Hirono even asked about the nominee's affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, “If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization?”
There is a false narrative that is being spread that a person cannot serve one's nation without putting aside one's religion. It's as if religious people are not deserving or capable of national responsibilities, or can only be tolerated if they keep their religion secret. They can worship in private, but must check their lifestyles and beliefs as they leave the church doors. The ingenious authors of the Constitution would certainly oppose such a narrative. They themselves practiced their religion and “the free exercise thereof” even when writing the words of the Constitution.
Don't take freedom of religion for granted and do what you can to make sure others don't as well. Double-check that your child's or grandchild's social studies books in school get it right. Don't let the U.S. Constitution be trampled by those who seek to re-interpret it and vote carefully to elect people who will protect it.
Anna Enright,
Hutchinson