By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Laura Temme, Esq. | Last reviewed July 20, 2022
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The freedom to practice whatever religion one chooses, without interference from the government, is one of the founding principles of the United States. So it might come as a surprise that this right was not included in the original Constitution. Instead, it was added in 1791 as part of the First Amendment - which also protects freedom of speech, the press, and peaceful protest. But given the importance of religion for so many, it's no surprise that this has become a complex area of the law. The First Amendment freedom of religion breaks down into two parts: the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. The establishment clause prohibits the U.S. government from favoring one religion over others or establishing a national religion. The free exercise clause prohibits the federal government from interfering with a person's right to exercise their religion. These two clauses often conflict with one another, and the Supreme Court must often decide which clause wins out in a given case.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."