Senator: government civics test wrong on religious freedom

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
CE News

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- A state Senator with a reputation for championing religious freedom has a "pet peeve" about the way the constitutional freedom of religion is misrepresented to immigrants seeking naturalization.

"Freedom of worship" should not be listed as a correct choice on a civics test about America's First Amendment, but instead "freedom of religion" more accurately depicts America's longstanding commitment to religious freedom, Oklahoma Junior Senator James Lankford asserts.

For the Department of Homeland Security that means they are likely to hear about it -- repeatedly.

During a hearing on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs April 29 Lankford addressed DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about the topic the two have had "previous conversations" about and Lankford asked Johnson to review the practice of how the test question reads -- "again."

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) criticizes the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test for misrepresenting Americans right to freedom of religion during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, April 29. | YouTube Screen Capture: Senator Lankford

"This is something that has been there for 10 years that I'd like to see shift at some point," Lankford said as preface. He referenced the question on the United States Citizenship Immigration Services civics test immigrants must take to become a U.S. citizen. It lists "freedom of worship" as a basic American right.

"I'd love to see freedom of worship actually shift to freedom of religion," Landford noted. " We in the United States actually have freedom of religion, not freedom of worship."

Lankford went on to differentiate a "freedom of religion" from a "freedom of worship" by explaining that the term "worship" requires attendance at a particular location to occur.

"We have this unique ability in America not to say that our government limits us to worship in this spot -- and you can do anything you want -- it's to be able to live your faith that's something."

According to a press release, the test question Lankford points to in his dialog is found on study materials for the civics history and government section of the test which states: "What are two rights of everyone living in the United States." The question then lists six possible answers including freedom of expression; freedom of speech; freedom of assembly; freedom to petition the government; freedom of worship and the right to bear arms.

Lankford's beef with the verbiage is consistent with the steadfast resolve to protecting religious freedoms his colleagues have come to expect from him.

Earlier this year, Congressional Prayer Caucus co-chair and founding member, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., lauded Lankford's "staunch commitment" and his willingness to fight "for the ability of all Americans to freely exercise and live by their religious beliefs."

Given Lankford's dedication to the religious liberty issue, Lankford is likely to continue to push the "shift" he desires to see in the materials.

Lankford further asked Johnson for a full review of the matter, considering its nature of constitutional freedom.

"We have the right to express [religion]," in America Lankford said, and Americans are able to "live [out their] faith."