Examples of freedom of religion
Katharine Gammon, LiveScience Contributor | July 02, 2012 10:42am ET
Freedom of religion is the right of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It is generally recognized to also include the freedom to change religion or to not follow any religion (sometimes referred to as “freedom from religion”). Freedom of religion is closely associated with separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, written in 1791, reads: “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.”
A man praying.
The language that guarantees freedom of religious practice comes in two parts. The "Establishment Clause" states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, and is generally read to prohibit the federal government from establishing a national church ("religion") or excessively involving itself in religion, particularly to the benefit of one religion over another. Following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this restriction also applies to state governments.
The "Free Exercise Clause" states that Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of religious practices. The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently held, however, that the right to free exercise of religion is not absolute. For example, in the 19th century, some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traditionally practiced polygamy, yet in a case heard in 1879, the Supreme Court upheld the criminal conviction of one of these members under a federal law banning polygamy. The Court reasoned that to do otherwise would set precedent for a full range of religious beliefs including those as extreme as human sacrifice, stating that "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices." So, if one were part of a religion that believed in vampirism, the First Amendment would protect one's belief in vampirism, but not the practice. This principle has similarly been applied to those attempting to claim religious exemptions for using drugs.
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