On January 16th, as presidents have done on this date for decades, President Obama proclaimed “Religious Freedom Day.” His proclamation began with a basic premise saying, “Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.”
Religious freedom certainly includes worship, but it extends far beyond the four walls of a church. Our Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees “the free exercise” of religion. In addition to worship in a church building, religious freedom must also include acting on one’s deeply held religious beliefs when feeding the poor, caring for the sick, educating the young, or even running a business ethically.
Some have challenged the president’s choice of words in light of his administration’s Affordable Care Act’s abortion-causing contraception mandate, which currently faces 43 legal challenges. They see it as being out of step with our traditions and laws, as well as trampling the religious freedoms of millions.