In another twist on news that doesn’t square with other news, and words by the president that don’t match actions by the president…

Mr. Obama declared January 16th Religious Freedom Day. Here’s the Proclamation:

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.

Right there is a tip off to where his administration has been going with religious liberty in America, transitioning it to the freedom to worship.

But immediately afterward he makes this fine set of points:

Today, we celebrate one of our Nation’s first laws to protect that right — the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison, the Statute affirmed that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and “all men shall be free to profess . . . their opinions in matters of religion.” Years later, our Founders looked to the Statute as a model when they enshrined the principle of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights.

Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose…Americans of every faith have molded the character of our Nation. They were pilgrims who sought refuge from persecution; pioneers who pursued brighter horizons; protesters who fought for abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. Each generation has seen people of different faiths join together to advance peace, justice, and dignity for all.

Define “all,” because different faiths have joined together over several decades to advance rights that don’t apply to the entire class of human beings who exist in the mothers’ wombs but are as yet unborn, and over most of 2012 to advance rights that are being denied employers who morally object to his HHS mandate. People who are battling in courts across the country to defend “the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose”.

The president continues:

As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.


The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty issued this statement soon after the Proclamation was released.

“Today we welcome the President’s Proclamation on Religious Freedom Day. However, we deeply regret that the President does not mention the HHS mandate, which was issued by his administration and which is now trampling the religious freedom of millions of individuals, schools, hospitals, charities, and businesses throughout our nation.  Perhaps this mismatch between words and deeds can be explained by the phrase “freedom of worship,” which the President uses in the first sentence of his proclamation. Religious freedom certainly includes worship, but it extends beyond the four walls of a church. If it is not to be an empty promise, religious freedom must also include acting on one’s deepest religious beliefs when one is feeding the poor, caring for the sick, educating the young, or running a business. The HHS mandate ignores that simple truth and is therefore out of step with our traditions and our laws, which promise religious freedom for all.”  — Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

So again I’m left wondering whether the president hears his own statements and considers them. Because actions speak louder than words, and his are saying contradictory things.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....