Freedom of Religion
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.
What the First Amendment Says:
"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."
- Historical Background of the First Amendment's Religion Clauses
- Laws That Require Government Involvement in Resolving Religious Disputes
- Financial Assistance to Church-Related Institutions
- Tax Exemptions of Religious Property
- Do Religious Groups Have a Right to Access Public Property?
- Are Sunday Closing Laws Constitutional?
- Can There Be Religious Symbols on Government Property?
- Religion in Governmental Observances
- Non-Financial Constitutional Issues Concerning Religion: Trump v. Hawaii
- Can Churches Participate in Government?
- The Relationship Between the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and Free Speech Clause