Freedom of Religion

imagesCA7KVW3TFreedom of Religion

Click this link to read what the United Nations says about Religious Freedom!

Article 18 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

You have two Freedoms
granted by the First Amendment regarding Religion!

The First Amendment contains two clauses about the Freedom of Religion. The first part is known as the Establishment Clause, and the second as the Free Exercise Clause.

The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from passing laws that will establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. The courts have interpreted the establishment clause to accomplish the separation of church and state.

The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the government from interfering with a person’s practice of his or her religion. However, religious actions and rituals can be limited by civil and federal laws.

Religious freedom is an absolute right, and includes the right to practice any religion of one’s choice, or no religion at all, and to do this without government control.

From the 1st Amendment:

 ”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.”

 Legal and public foundation

The United States Constitution addresses the issue of religion in two places: in the First Amendment, and the Article VI prohibition on religious tests as a condition for holding public office. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” This provision was later expanded to state and local governments, through the Incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 Colonial precedent

Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle in the founding of the colony of Maryland,also founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, in 1634.Fifteen years later (1649), the first enactment of religious liberty, the Maryland Toleration Act, drafted by Lord Baltimore, provided: “No person or persons…shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof.” The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed. In 1657, Lord Baltimore regained control after making a deal with the colony’s Protestants, and in 1658 the Act was again passed by the colonial assembly. This time, it would last more than thirty years, until 1692, when after Maryland’s Protestant Revolution of 1689, freedom of religion was again rescinded. In addition in 1704, an Act was passed “to prevent the growth of Popery in this Province”, preventing Catholics from holding political office. Full religious toleration would not be restored in Maryland until the American Revolution, when Maryland’s Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the American Declaration of Independence.

 The First Amendment

In the United States, the religious civil liberties are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

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.

The “Establishment Clause,” stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” 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 United States Constitution and through the doctrine of incorporation, this restriction is held to be applicable to state governments as well.

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 Reynolds v. United States (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. The Court stated that “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.” For example, 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 smoking cannabis or, as in the case of Employment Division v. Smith (1990), the use of the hallucinogen peyote. Currently, peyote and ayahuasca are allowed by legal precedent if used in a religious ceremony; though cannabis is not.

 The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the religious civil rights. Whereas the First Amendment secures the free exercise of religion, section one of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of religion, by securing “the equal protection of the laws” for every person:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  Religious tests

The affirmation or denial of specific religious beliefs had, in the past, been made into qualifications for public office; however, the United States Constitution states that the inauguration of a President may include an “affirmation” of the faithful execution of his duties rather than an “oath” to that effect — this provision was included in order to respect the religious prerogatives of the Quakers, a Protestant Christian denomination that declines the swearing of oaths. The U.S. Constitution also provides that “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification of any Office or public Trust under the United States.” As of 2007, seven states have language included in their constitutions that requires state office-holders to have particular religious beliefs. These states are Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Some of these beliefs (or oaths) were historically required of jurors and witnesses in court. Even though they are still on the books, these provisions have been rendered unenforceable by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Religious liberty has not prohibited states or the federal government from prohibiting or regulating certain behaviors; i.e. prostitution, gambling, alcohol and certain drugs, although some libertarians interpret religious freedom to extend to these behaviors. However, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a right to privacy or a due process right does prevent the government from prohibiting adult access to birth control, pornography, and from outlawing sodomy between consenting adults and early trimester abortions.

 The “wall of separation”

Thomas Jefferson wrote that the First Amendment erected a “wall of separation between church and state” likely borrowing the language from Roger Williams, founder of the First Baptist Church in America and the Colony of Rhode Island, who used the phrase in his 1644 book, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution. James Madison, often regarded as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”, also often wrote of the “perfect separation”, “line of separation”, “strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States”, and “total separation of the church from the state”. Controversy rages in the United States between those who wish to restrict government involvement with religious institutions and remove religious references from government institutions and property, and those who wish to loosen such prohibitions. Advocates for stronger separation of church and state emphasize the plurality of faiths and non-faiths in the country, and what they see as broad guarantees of the federal Constitution. Their opponents emphasize what they see as the largely Christian heritage and history of the nation (often citing the references to “Nature’s God” and the “Creator” of men in the Declaration of Independence). Some more socially conservative Christian sects, such as the Christian Reconstructionist movement, oppose the concept of a “wall of separation” and prefer a closer relationship between church and state.

Problems also arise in U.S. public schools concerning the teaching and display of religious issues. In various counties, school choice and school vouchers have been put forward as solutions to accommodate variety in beliefs and freedom of religion, by allowing individual school boards to choose between a secular, religious or multi-faith vocation, and allowing parents free choice among these schools. Critics of American voucher programs claim that they take funds away from public schools, and that the amount of funds given by vouchers is not enough to help many middle and working class parents.

U.S. judges often ordered alcoholic defendants to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or face imprisonment. However, in 1999, a federal appeals court ruled this unconstitutional because the A.A. program relies on submission to a “Higher Power”.

Thomas Jefferson also played a large role in the formation of freedom of religion. He created the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which has since been incorporated into the Virginia State Constitution.

 Other statements

 Unalienable rights

The United States of America was established on foundational principles by the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

(based on Thomas Jefferson’s draft.)

 Religious institutions

In 1944, a joint committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, formulated a “Statement on Religious Liberty”

“Religious Liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organize with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes.”

 Freedom of religion restoration

Following increasing government involvement in religious matters, Congress passed the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A number of states then passed corresponding acts (e.g., Missouri passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).

The situation of Native Americans in the United States has been problematic since the initial European colonization of the Americas. Aside from the general issues in the relations between Europeans and Native Americans, there has been a historic suppression of Native American religions as well as some current charges of religious discrimination against Native Americans by the U.S. government, that need to be considered.

With the practice of the Americanization of Native Americans, Native American children were sent to Christian boarding schools where they were forced to worship as Christians and traditional customs were banned. Until the Freedom of Religion Act 1978, “spiritual leaders [of Native Americans] ran the risk of jail sentences of up to 30 years for simply practicing their rituals.” The traditional indigenous Sun Dance was illegal from the 1880s (Canada) or 1904 (USA) to the 1980s.

Continuing charges of religious discrimination have largely centered on the eagle feather law, the use of ceremonial peyote, and the repatriation of Native American human remains and cultural and religious objectsPainted Buffalo Skull

Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868


From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall for ever cease. The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace, and they now pledge their honor to maintain it.

If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.

If bad men among the Indians shall commit a wrong or depredation upon the person or property of nay one, white, black, or Indian, subject to the authority of the United States, and at peace therewith, the Indians herein named solemnly agree that they will, upon proof made to their agent, and notice by him, deliver up the wrongdoer to the United States, to be tried and punished according to its laws, and, in case they willfully refuse so to do, the person injured shall be reimbursed for his loss from the annuities, or other moneys due or to become due to them under this or other treaties made with the United States; and the President, on advising with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, shall prescribe such rules and regulations for ascertaining damages under the provisions of this article as in his judgment may be proper, but no one sustaining loss while violating the provisions of this treaty, or the laws of the United States, shall be reimbursed therefor.

Indiginous Rights

  • The eagle feather law, which governs the possession and religious use of eagle feathers, was written with the intention to protect then dwindling eagle populations on one hand while still protecting traditional Native American spiritual and religious customs, to which the use of eagle feather is central, on the other hand. As a result, the possession of eagle feathers is restricted to ethnic Native Americans, a policy that is seen as controversial for several reasons.

  • Peyote, a spineless cactus found in the desert southwest and Mexico, is commonly used in certain traditions of Native American religion and spirituality, most notably in the Native American Church. Prior to the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) in 1978, and as amended in 1994, the religious use of peyote was not afforded legal protection. This resulted in the arrest of many Native Americans and non-Native Americans participating in traditional indigenous religion and spirituality.

  • Native Americans often hold strong personal and spiritual connections to their ancestors and often believe that their remains should rest undisturbed. This has often placed Native Americans at odds with archaeologists who have often dug on Native American burial grounds and other sites considered sacred, often removing artifacts and human remains – an act considered sacrilegious by many Native Americans. For years, Native American communities decried the removal of ancestral human remains and cultural and religious objects, charging that such activities are acts of genocide, religious persecution, and discrimination. Many Native Americans called on the government, museums, and private collectors for the return of remains and sensitive objects for reburial. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which gained passage in 1990, established a means for Native Americans to request the return or “repatriation” of human remains and other sensitive cultural, religious, and funerary items held by federal agencies and federally assisted museums and institutions.


In the event that your Indigenous spiritual practice is threatened by any organization or individual contact us. Also contact the applicable organizations below if needed. Remember!! you have rights, do not tolerate discrimination and dont be pushed around!

Religious Freedom Organizations

Religious Freedom Web Sites

  • America Comments: A Web Magazine
  • First Amendment Cyber-Tribune
  • Liberal Constitutionalists
  • Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  • The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
  • The Religious Freedom Page
    StudentsThe Singing Stone is not governed by or subject to any political organization or tribal government. As a newly defined denomination of Aboriginal American Spiritual practice, we reserve the right to practice our Religion with the freedom granted to us by the United States Constitution. We are sovereign from all other Indigenous Spiritual groups and individuals in the same way that the Protestant church has amnesty from Catholicism  We are committed to serve the public without discriminating against race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. We refuse to support any group or individual that intends on regulating or restricting the free flowing power of Divinity (or creating the illusion of that)!Morelia
    Terms and Conditions of Use : You browse this site at your own risk, The Singing Stone is not liable for any direct, incidental, consequential, indirect, or punitive damages arising out of your access to or use of this site or any information contained therein. Further, everything on the site is provided to you ‘as is’ without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchant ability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement. The information we provide is not intended to be used by persons not involved in bona fied Indigenous traditions. Disclaimer: The information contained on this website has been prepared solely for the purpose of providing information to the visitors of the Site. This information is not intended to be advice on any particular matter.The Site has been carefully compiled by The Singing Stone, but no representation is made or warranty given (either express or implied) as to the completeness or accuracy of the information it contains. The Singing Stone and it’s affiliates’ are not liable for the information on this Site or for consequences of the use of the Site. We will not be liable for any direct or consequential damages arising from the use of the information contained in this Site.The Singing Stone is neither responsible nor liable for the consequences of any information provided as a result of the access to another website or product connected from this Site.No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the publishers.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

An Act to protect the free exercise of religion.

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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” The bill was introduced by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy (D-MA) the same day. A unanimous U.S. House and a nearly unanimous U.S. Senate—three senators voted against passage, passed the bill, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

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The RFRA was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress’s enforcement power. However, it continues to be applied to the federal government—for instance, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal—because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized. In response to City of Boerne v. Flores and other related RFR issues, twenty individual states have passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.


This law reinstated the Sherbert Test, which was set forth by Sherbert v. Verner, and Wisconsin v. Yoder, mandating that strict scrutiny be used when determining whether the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing religious freedom, has been violated. In the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Congress states in its findings that a religiously neutral law can burden a religion just as much as one that was intended to interfere with religion; therefore the Act states that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

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The law provided an exception if two conditions are both met. First, the burden must be necessary for the “furtherance of a compelling government interest.” Under strict scrutiny, a government interest is compelling when it is more than routine and does more than simply improve government efficiency. A compelling interest relates directly with core constitutional issues. The second condition is that the rule must be the least restrictive way in which to further the government interest.

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The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all religions, but is most pertinent to Native American religions that are burdened by increasing expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religion the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies can only take place in certain locations because these locations have special significance. This, along with Peyote use, are the main parts of Native American religions that are often left unprotected.


The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment states that Congress shall not pass laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court interpreted this as banning laws that burdened a person’s exercise of religion (e.g.Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)). But in the 1980s the Court began to allow legislation that incidentally prohibited religiously mandatory activities as long as the ban was “generally applicable” to all citizens.

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Also, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, intended to protect the freedoms of tribal religions, was lacking enforcement. This led to the key cases leading up to the RFRA, which were Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (1988) and Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). InLyng, the Court was unfavorable to sacred land rights. Members of the Yurok, Tolowa and Karok tribes tried to use the First Amendment to prevent a road from being built by the U.S. Forest Service through sacred land. The land that the road would go through consisted of gathering sites for natural resources used in ceremonies and praying sites. The Supreme Court ruled that this was not an adequate legal burden because the government was not coercing or punishing them for their religious beliefs.[8] In Smith the Court upheld the state of Oregon‘s refusal to give unemployment benefits to two Native Americans fired from their jobs at a rehab clinic after testing positive for mescaline, the main psychoactive compound in thepeyote cactus, which they used in a religious ceremony. Peyote use has been a common practice in Native American tribes for centuries. It was integrated with Christianity into what is now known as the Native American Church.

Peyote cactus1

The Smith decision outraged the public. Many groups came together. Both liberal (like the American Civil Liberties Union) and conservative groups (like the Traditional Values Coalition) as well as other groups such as the Christian Legal Society, the American Jewish Congress, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and the National Association of Evangelicals joined forces to support RFRA, which would reinstate the Sherbert Test, overturning laws if they burden a religion. The act, which was Congress’s reaction to the Lyng and Smith cases, passed the House unanimously and the Senate 97 to 3 and was signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Painted Buffalo Skull

The RFRA applies “to all Federal law, and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise”, including any Federal statutory law adopted after the RFRA’s date of signing “unless such law explicitly excludes such application.”

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In 1997, part of this act was overturned by the United States Supreme Court. TheRoman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio wanted to enlarge a church in Boerne, Texas. But a Boerne ordinance protected the building as a historic landmark and did not permit it to be torn down. The church sued, citing RFRA, and in the resulting case,City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), the Supreme Court struck down the RFRA with respect to its applicability to States (but not Federally), stating that Congress had stepped beyond their power of enforcement provided in the Fourteenth Amendment. In response to the Boerne ruling, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in 2000, which grants special privileges to religious landowners.

The Act was amended in 2003 to only include the federal government and its entities, such as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A number of states have passed state RFRAs, applying the rule to the laws of their own state, but the Smith case remains the authority in these matters in many states.


The constitutionality of RFRA as applied to the federal government was confirmed on February 21, 2006, as the Supreme Court ruled against the government in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418(2006), which involved the use of an otherwise illegal substance in a religious ceremony, stating that the federal government must show a compelling state interest in restricting religious conduct.

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Post-Smith, many members of the Native American Church still had issues using peyote in their ceremonies. This led to the Religious Freedom Act Amendments in 1994, which state, “the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremony purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any state. No Indian shall be penalized or discriminated against on the basis of such use, possession or transportation.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act holds the federal government responsible for accepting additional obligations to protect religious exercise. In O’Bryan v. Bureau of Prisons it was found that the RFRA governs the actions of federal officers and agencies and that the RFRA can be applied to “internal operations of the federal government.” RFRA, in conjunction with President Bill Clinton‘s Executive Order in 1996, provided more security for sacred sites for Native American religious rites.

eagle and condor

eagle and condor

As of 1996, the year before the RFRA was found unconstitutional as applied to states, 337 cases had cited RFRA in its three year time range. It was also found that Jewish, Muslim, and Native American religions, which make up only three percent of religious membership in the U.S., make up 18 percent of the cases involving the free exercise of religion. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was a cornerstone for tribes challenging the National Forest Service’s plans to permit upgrades to Snow Bowl Ski Resort. Six tribes were involved, including the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, and Hualapai. The tribes objected on religious grounds to the plans to use reclaimed water. They felt that this risked infecting the tribal members with “ghost sickness” as the water would be from mortuaries and hospitals. They also felt that the reclaimed water would contaminate the plant life used in ceremonies. In August 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their RFRA claim.

In the case of Adams v. Commissioner, the United States Tax Court rejected the argument of Priscilla M. Lippincott Adams, who was a devout Quaker. She tried to argue that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, she was exempt from federal income taxes. The U.S. Tax Court rejected her argument and ruled that she was not exempt. The Court stated: “…while petitioner’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened by payment of taxes that fund military expenditures, the Supreme Court has established that uniform, mandatory participation in the Federal income tax system, irrespective of religious belief, is a compelling governmental interest.” In the case of Miller v. Commissioner, the taxpayers objected to the use of social security numbers, arguing that such numbers related to the “mark of the beast” from the Bible. In its decision, the U.S. Court discussed the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, but ruled against the taxpayers.

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The RFRA figured prominently in oral arguments in the case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, heard by the Supreme Court on March 25, 2014. In a 5-4 decision, Justice Alito stated, that the RFRA did not just restore the law as before Smith but contains a new regulation that allows to opt out of federal law based on religious beliefs.


Notes and references

  1. Jump up^
  2. Jump up^ “1A. What Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?”. The Volokh Conspiracy.
  3. Jump up^ “State Religious Freedom Acts”.National Conference of State Legislatures.
  4. Jump up^ Religious Freedom Restoration Act full text at
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Utter, Jack (2001). American Indians: Answers to Today’s Questions. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-8061-3309-0.
  6. Jump up^ Ross, Susan (2004). Deciding communication law: key cases in context. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-4698-0.[page needed]
  7. Jump up^ Waldman, Carl (2009). Atlas of the North American Indian. New York: Checkmark Books. ISBN 978-0-8160-6859-3.[page needed]
  8. Jump up^ Duthu, Bruce N. (2009). American Indians and the Law. London: Penguin Books. pp. 111–2. ISBN 978-0-14-311478-9.
  9. Jump up^ Kuhn, Cynthia; Swartzwelder, Scott; Wilson, Wilkie (2008). Buzzed: The straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy. ISBN 978-0-393-32985-8.[page needed]
  10. ^ Jump up to:a b Nussbaum, Martha (2008).Liberty of Conscience: in defense of America’s tradition of religious equality. New York: Basic Books.ISBN 978-0-465-05164-9.[page needed]
  11. Jump up^ 42 U.S. Code § 2000bb–3 Applicability
  12. Jump up^ Hamilton, Marci (2005). God vs. the gavel: religion and the rule of law. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85304-0.[page needed]
  13. Jump up^ Sullivan, Winnifred (2005). The impossibility of religious freedom. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11801-9.[page needed]
  14. Jump up^ Canby, William C. (2004). American Indian Law. St. Paul: West Publishing. p. 344. ISBN 0-314-14640-7.
  15. Jump up^ Sisk, Gregory (2006). Litigation with the federal government. American Law Institute. ISBN 0-8318-0865-9.[page needed]
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b Richardson, James (2004).Regulating religion: case studies from around the globe. New York: Kluwer Academic. ISBN 0-306-47886-2.[page needed]
  17. Jump up^ 535 F.3d 1058
  18. Jump up^ RFRA Land Use Challenges After Navajo Nation v. U.S. Parks Service, University of Houston Law Center.
  19. Jump up^ See Adams v. Commissioner, 110 T.C. 137 (1998), at [1].
  20. Jump up^ See Miller v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 511 (2000), at [2].
  21. Jump up^
  23. Jump up^ “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act:”. Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
  24. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 1978


Congressional Seal

 The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 1978


Public Law 95-341 95th Congress   Joint Resolution American Indian Religious Freedom.

Whereas the freedom of religion for all people is an inherent right, fundamental to the democratic structure of the United States and is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;    Whereas the United States has traditionally rejected the concept of a government denying individuals the right to practice their religion, and as a result, has benefited from a rich variety of religious heritages in this country;   Whereas the religious practices of the American Indian (as well as Native Alaskan and Hawaiian) are an integral part of their culture, tradition, and heritage, such practices forming the basis of Indian identity and value systems;  Whereas the traditional American Indian religions as an integral part of Indian life, are indispensable and irreplaceable;  Whereas the lack of a clear, comprehensive, and consistent Federal policy has often resulted in the abridgment of religious freedom for traditional American Indians;  Whereas such religious infringements result from the lack of knowledge of the insensitive and inflexible enforcement of Federal policies and regulations premised on a variety of laws;  Whereas such laws were designed for such worthwhile purposes as conservation and preservation of natural species and resources but were never intended to relate to Indian religious practices and, there, were passed without consideration of their effect on traditional American Indian religions;  Whereas such laws and policies often deny American Indians access to sacred sites required in their religions, including cemeteries; Whereas such laws at times prohibit the use and possession of sacred objects necessary to the exercise of religious rites and ceremonies; Whereas traditional American Indian ceremonies have been intruded upon, interfered with, and in a few instances banned; Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, That henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.

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SEC. 2. The President shall direct that various Federal departments, agencies, and other instrumentalities responsible for the administering relevant laws to evaluate their policies and procedures in consultation with Native traditional religious leaders in order to determine appropriate changes necessary to protect and preserve Native American religious cultural rights and practices. Twelve months after approval of this resolution, the President shall report back to Congress the results of his evaluation, including any changes which were made in administrative policies and procedures, and any recommendations he may have for legislative action.

Approved August 11, 1978




The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (commonly abbreviated to AIRFA) is a US federal law and a joint resolution of Congress that was passed in 1978. It was created to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights and cultural practices of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians.  These rights include, but are not limited to, access of sacred sites, repatriation of sacred objects held in museums, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites, including within prisons, and use and possession of objects considered sacred.  The Act required policies of all governmental agencies to eliminate interference with the free exercise of Native religion, based on the First Amendment, and to accommodate access to and use of religious sites to the extent that the use is practicable and is not inconsistent with an agency’s essential functions.  It also acknowledged the prior violation of that right.


Congress enacted the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) on August 11, 1978, enumerating a federal policy of protecting and preserving the ability of Native Americans to exercise their traditional religious beliefs — including access to traditional religious sites, use and possession of sacred objects and freedom to worship in traditional ways.  Many traditional religious sites are located on federal lands, and there had been a history of obstacles put in the way of Indians wishing to access those sites  to worship there unmolested.  To meet the ex-pressed ends, the Act directed federal agencies to adjust their policies so that their consultations with Native American Tribes encompassed the goals of AIRFA.

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Specifically, AIRFA states:

On and after August 11, 1978, it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.


For several years after its passage, Native American tribes, environmental organizations and related groups cited AIRFA in litigation in efforts to protect sacred sites, objects and corresponding religious worship.  Unfortunately, ten years after passage of the Act, the United States Supreme Court interpreted ARIFA’s loose language to be merely  a policy statement of the federal government and not judicially enforceable law.  In Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, the Court announced its belief that the Act “had no teeth in it” and determined that AIRFA did not allow a cause of action for Indians for protection of their religious sites from federal management decisions.


While limiting ARIFA’s force in the Lyng decision, the United States Supreme Court did not completely strip AIRFA of all enforcement power.  Instead, the Court’s opinion in Lyng and in subsequent opinions has created procedural requirements tied to the Act.  Specifically, AIRFA requires federal agencies to consider Indian religious concerns in agency actions that have the potential to affect an Indian religious practice or a spiritually significant Indian religious site.



The fallout from AIRFA and the Lyng decision did create an environment ripe for some positive change.  In 1988, the American Indian Religious Freedom Coalition was formed, hoping to influence Congress to amend AIRFA to fix its limitations. No such amendments occurred at the time, but the American Indian Religious Freedom Coalition (AIRFC) did succeed in its efforts to protect Indian religious freedom by influencing other statutory changes.

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Most significantly, Congress, due to AIRFC’s influence, amended the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).    Enacted in 1992, the amendment allowed for “properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe” to be eligible for inclusion as National Historic Properties.  In practice, this amendment has potentially allowed for more government-to-government consultation between the federal government and sovereign Indian tribes than any other piece of federal legislation.  The listing of tribal properties as culturally and/or historically significant triggers the federal government’s obligation to consult with tribes before undertaking any action that may affect those properties.


 An important amendment to AIRFA did occur in 1994, following Congressional subcommittee hearings on the effectiveness of the Act.  Sections were added to AIRFA specifically allowing the ceremonial use of peyote for practitioners of “traditional Indian religions for which the sacramental use of peyote is integral to their practice.”



The major criticism of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was its inability to enforce its provisions, therefore its inability to provide religious freedom without condition. The act served as more of a joint resolution than an actual law. Its failure to protect certain sacred sites proved detrimental to Native American culture and religion as a whole.  The 1988 Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association decision represented a unique convergence of religion, law, and land, and confirmed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act as a hollow excess of words


Due to the criticism of the AIRFA and its inability to enforce the provisions it outlined in 1978.  On June 10, 1994 the House of Representatives, Committee on Natural resources and Subcommittee on Native American Affairs met to bring about H.R. 4155 in order to provide for the management of federal lands in a way that doesn’t frustrate the traditional religions and religious purposes of Native Americans.   Also,H.R. 4230 was set forth to amend the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to provide for the traditional use of peyote as sacrament in religious ceremonies.




Also consider the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990) and ARPA (Archaeological Resources Protection Act 1979).




[1]485 U.S. 439 (1988)

[2]16 U.S.C. 470 (1966)

  • Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, 485 U.S. 439 (1988).


  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), 42 USC 1996 (1978) and amendments
  • National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), 16 USC 470 (1966)

American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994

American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994


(Pub. L. 95–341, § 1,Aug. 11, 1978, 92 Stat. 469.)

Short Title of 1994 Amendment


Pub. L. 103–344, § 1,Oct. 6, 1994, 108 Stat. 3125, provided that: “This Act [enacting section 1996a of this title] may be cited as the ‘American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994’.”
Short Title


Pub. L. 95–341, as amended, which enacted this section, section 1996a of this title, and a provision set out as a note under this section, is popularly known as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
Federal Implementation of Protective and Preservation Functions Relating to Native American Religious Cultural Rights and Practices; Presidential Report to Congress


Pub. L. 95–341, § 2,Aug. 11, 1978, 92 Stat. 470, provided that the President direct the various Federal departments, agencies, and other instrumentalities responsible for administering relevant laws to evaluate their policies and procedures in consultation with native traditional religious leaders to determine changes necessary to preserve Native American religious cultural rights and practices and report to the Congress 12 months after Aug. 11, 1978.
Ex. Ord. No. 13007. Indian Sacred Sites


Ex. Ord. No. 13007, May 24, 1996, 61 F.R. 26771, provided:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, in furtherance of Federal treaties, and in order to protect and preserve Indian religious practices, it is hereby ordered:
Section 1. Accommodation of Sacred Sites. (a) In managing Federal lands, each executive branch agency with statutory or administrative responsibility for the management of Federal lands shall, to the extent practicable, permitted by law, and not clearly inconsistent with essential agency functions, (1) accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners and (2) avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites. Where appropriate, agencies shall maintain the confidentiality of sacred sites.
(b) For purposes of this order:
(i) “Federal lands” means any land or interests in land owned by the United States, including leasehold interests held by the United States, except Indian trust lands;
(ii) “Indian tribe” means an Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian tribe pursuant to Public Law No. 103–454, 108 Stat. 4791 [see 25 U.S.C. 479a, 479a–1], and “Indian” refers to a member of such an Indian tribe; and
(iii) “Sacred site” means any specific, discrete, narrowly delineated location on Federal land that is identified by an Indian tribe, or Indian individual determined to be an appropriately authoritative representative of an Indian religion, as sacred by virtue of its established religious significance to, or ceremonial use by, an Indian religion; provided that the tribe or appropriately authoritative representative of an Indian religion has informed the agency of the existence of such a site.
Sec. 2. Procedures. (a) Each executive branch agency with statutory or administrative responsibility for the management of Federal lands shall, as appropriate, promptly implement procedures for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of section 1 of this order, including, where practicable and appropriate, procedures to ensure reasonable notice is provided of proposed actions or land management policies that may restrict future access to or ceremonial use of, or adversely affect the physical integrity of, sacred sites. In all actions pursuant to this section, agencies shall comply with the Executive memorandum of April 29, 1994, “Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments” [25 U.S.C. 450 note].
(b) Within 1 year of the effective date of this order, the head of each executive branch agency with statutory or administrative responsibility for the management of Federal lands shall report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, on the implementation of this order. Such reports shall address, among other things, (i) any changes necessary to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites; (ii) any changes necessary to avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of Indian sacred sites; and (iii) procedures implemented or proposed to facilitate consultation with appropriate Indian tribes and religious leaders and the expeditious resolution of disputes relating to agency action on Federal lands that may adversely affect access to, ceremonial use of, or the physical integrity of sacred sites.
Sec. 3. Nothing in this order shall be construed to require a taking of vested property interests. Nor shall this order be construed to impair enforceable rights to use of Federal lands that have been granted to third parties through final agency action. For purposes of this order, “agency action” has the same meaning as in the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 551 (13)).
Sec. 4. This order is intended only to improve the internal management of the executive branch and is not intended to, nor does it, create any right, benefit, or trust responsibility, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by any party against the United States, its agencies, officers, or any person.

William J. Clinton.

American Indian Religious Freedom Act

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA, Public Law 95-341), was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on August 12, 1978. President Carter defined the intention of AIRFA well when he stated at the signing ceremony

It is the fundamental right of every American, as guaranteed by the first amendment of the Constitution, to worship as he or she pleases. . . . This legislation sets forth the policy of the United States to protect and preserve the inherent right of American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiian people to believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions.

The Act was introduced in the Senate on December 15, 1977, by Senator James Abourezk (Democrat, South Dakota) and later in the House of Representatives by Representative James Udall (Democrat, New Mexico). The Senate held hearings on AIRFA but the House did not. Testimony in the Senate hearings came primarily from Native Americans and representatives of various government entities. AIRFA was considered and passed in the Senate on April 3, 1978, and in the House on July 18, 1978.President Carter and Secretary of Agriculture Bob Berglud were enthusiastic supporters of AIRFA, as were several senators and congresspersons. The Department of Justice expressed concerns about the effect of AIRFA on existing state and federal laws but was reassured by Representative Udall, who stated that it had “no teeth in it” and was not intended to override existing state laws. President Carter echoed this sentiment and stated that the “act is in no way intended to alter . . . or override existing laws.” With those concerns addressed, AIRFA passed with very little resistance in the House or Senate. Congress passed AIRFA with the intent of eliminating federal interference with the exercise of Native American religious traditions and to compel government agencies to consider AIRFA in the institution and administration of policies and procedures.

AIRFA is divided into two sections. The first section addresses the right of Native Americans to practice their traditional religions. The relevant language states:

Whereas, the freedom of religion for all people is an inherent right, fundamental to the democratic structure of the United States and is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution . . . Whereas traditional American Indian ceremonies have been intruded upon, interfered with, and in a few instances banned: Now therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions . . . including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites.

This section of AIRFA is important because it was the first federal legislation specifically addressing Native Americans’ inherent right to freedom of religion.

Section 2 requires that the president direct federal departments and agencies responsible for administering relevant laws to evaluate their policies and procedures in consultation with traditional Native religious leaders and report back to Congress with any recommended changes in one year’s time.

The AIRFA Report

The report committee formed to satisfy Section 2 of AIRFA was chaired by Secretary of the Interior Cecil B. Andrus. The report was submitted to Congress in August of 1979 and detailed the government’s overall failure to protect Native Americans’ religious freedoms. It stated that the failure had primarily stemmed from the “ignorance and misunderstanding on the part of the non-Indian” of Native American religions. The report called for the need for improvements in several areas, including access to sacred objects such as eagle feathers and peyote, access to sacred sites, protection of sacred sites, and the overall double standard in terms of the treatment of European-American versus Native American human remains. The response of government agencies and departments was sporadic and generally dismal. Because AIFRA lacked a clear interpretation of Congress’s intent, primarily due to the use of convoluted language on the lack of penalties for non-compliance, there was little incentive for government response.

The Suppression of Native American Religious Traditions

Native Americans have had their free practice of religion suppressed by every Western nation that sought to colonize the New World. Throughout history, suppressing Native religious practices has been a common practice of those seeking to subjugate a people. It was thought that through the denial of a people’s own culture, they would be easily assimilated into their suppressor’s culture. France, Britain, Spain, and the United States all suppressed Native Americans’ free practice of religion and supported, and often funded, efforts to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Freedom of religion has been the law of the land since the birth of the United States as a nation; however, this basic right, guaranteed to all by the Constitution, has repeatedly been denied to Native Americans.

It is ironic that the first Europeans who would become known as Americans settled here because they were fleeing religious persecution. The United States continued the policy of the earlier colonial governments by actively promoting Christianity to Native Americans. Christian missionaries were hired as Indian agents, tribal administrative control was often placed in the hands of religious denominations, and tribal-held land was repeatedly given away to organizations that promised to build religious schools or churches on it. In 1869, the Board of Indian Commissioners was established with the intended purpose of educating Native Americans in the principles of Christianity. In 1879, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was established in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, by the U.S. government for the education of Native American children. The school’s director, Richard Pratt, stated that his goal was to “[k]ill the Indian and save the man.” The school punished children for wearing Native dress or speaking their own languages and forbade any practice of their Native religious traditions.

Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller holds the distinction of being the first U.S. government representative to order official restrictions on the practice of Native American religious customs. In an 1882 directive Teller ordered an end to all “heathenish dances and ceremonies” on reservations due to their “great hindrance to civilization.” In 1883, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hiram Price codified the practice of officially restricting Native American religious freedom by creating the Indian Religious Crimes Code. In his 1883 annual report to the secretary of the interior, Price stated

there is no good reason why an Indian should be permitted to indulge in practices which are alike repugnant to common decency and morality; and the preservation of good order on the reservations demands that some active measures should be taken to discourage and, if possible, put a stop to the demoralizing influence of heathenish rites.

In 1892, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas J. Morgan sought to further suppress Native religions by ordering penalties of up to six months in prison for those who repeatedly participated in religious dances or acted as medicine men.

The government’s attempts to suppress and in many instances outright ban Native American religious practices led to one of the bloodiest events in the history of the United States: the Massacre at Wounded Knee. To enforce the ban on the Ghost Dance in accordance with the Indian Religious Crimes Code, the Seventh Calvary was sent into the Lakota Sioux’s Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations to stop the dance and arrest the participants. General Armstrong Custer’s former unit, in response to a dispute over a firearm, attacked and killed approximately 150 Native American men, women, and children on December 29, 1890. Charges of killing innocents were brought against members of the Seventh Calvary, but all were later exonerated. The massacre marked the effective end of the Ghost Dance movement and, according to many historians, signified the end of the Indian Wars.

The Start of a Change in U.S. Policy

The shift toward acknowledging Native American religions, the government’s obligations to the tribes, and their rites as citizens of the United States began in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed John Collier as commissioner of Indian Affairs. Collier issued Bureau of Indian Affairs Circular 2970, “Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture,” on January 3, 1934. The circular was sent to all federal agencies and read in part “no interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated.” Collier also guided, with the support of President Roosevelt, the Indian Reorganization Act, commonly known as the Indian New Deal, through Congress. This act dramatically changed U.S. policy by allowing tribal self-government and consolidating individual land allotments back into tribal hands.

In the 1960s, partly in response to a nationwide wave of discontent and a trend toward active protesting of government policies, a renewed movement of Native American activism resulted in the passage of several acts, including AIRFA. Native Americans began to cooperate and organize a pan-Indian movement to push for change through political channels. While there is a long history of pan-Indian movements, many feel that this one had its roots in the forced boarding school programs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation programs. Both programs brought Native Americans from several tribes together in situations in which their common hardships and interests led to increased inter-tribal communication and cooperation.

One of the first politically active Native American groups to form was the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), created in 1961. NIYC participated in a series of protests calling for the recognition of treaty-granted fishing rights in the state of Washington. The American Indian Movement (AIM), the most vocal and well-known of the Native American activist groups, was formed in 1968 by George Mitchell and Dennis Banks in Minneapolis. AIM participated in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz, the November 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C., and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee.

Largely in response to Native Americans’ well publicized calls for change, a large number of acts were passed by Congress in the late 1960s and 1970s: the Indian Civil Rights Act (PL90-284) in 1968; the Alaska Native Claims Act (PL92-208) in 1971; the Indian Education Act (PL92-318) in 1972; the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (PL93-638) in 1974; the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (PL94-437) in 1976; and the Indian Child Welfare Act (PL95-608) in 1978. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (PL96-95) was passed in 1979 and prohibited the excavation, removal, defacing, or sale of human remains or burial items unless done in accordance with the law.

The increased public awareness of the Native American’s plight led to the creation of the American Indian Policy Review Commission in 1975. Consisting of three senators, three representatives, and five Indian commissioners, the commission oversaw thirty-three task forces reviewing Native American grievances and conditions. The final report was issued in May 1977 and concluded that the government had often interfered in and obstructed the efforts of Native Americans to practice their traditional religious customs. The report was instrumental in the struggle to convince Congress of the need for AIRFA.

Legislation Following AIRFA and AIRFA Amendments

Since 1978, a relatively steady progression of executive orders, memorandums, and legislation has addressed problems with AIRFA and clarified Congress’s intent to the courts. Issues such as access to sacred sites, the ceremonial use of peyote, the rights of Native American prisoners to practice their religions, and the repatriation of human remains and ceremonial objects have all been specifically addressed. The efforts made in addressing the issue of Native Americans’ free practice of religion have not satisfied all, but most would concur that there has been a significant amount of progress made in the nearly three decades since the passage of AIRFA.

President George H. W. Bush signed MAIA, the Museum of the American Indian Act (PL101-185) in 1989 and NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (PL101-601) in 1990. MAIA called for the creation of the Museum of the American Indian and the repatriation of 18,500 Native American remains held by the Smithsonian. NAGPRA calls for museums and federal agencies to return Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural importance to lineal descendents, affiliated tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL103-141) was passed and signed into law by President William Jefferson Clinton. On signing the Act, President Clinton stated that it “reestablishes a standard that better protects all Americans of all faiths . . . in a way that I am convinced is far more consistent with the intent of the Founders of this nation.” In 1994, President Clinton issued a memorandum to every executive department and agency of the government, titled “Policy Concerning Distribution of Eagle Feathers for Native American Religious Purposes.” In his remarks to Native American and Native Alaskan tribal leaders, he said that the memorandum directed the agencies and departments to “cooperate with tribal governments to accommodate whenever possible the need for eagle feathers in the practice of Native American religions.”

The AIRFA amendments (PL103-344) were passed in 1994 to correct the inadequacies of the original Act. The 1978 version of AIRFA was seen by the courts as a policy for executive agencies and as such was not given extensive weight in court decisions. The courts have always distinguished between religious beliefs and religious practices. People are free to choose their religious beliefs, but practices have been repeatedly prohibited by the courts. Polygamy, human sacrifice, and religious customs such as those allowing rape as a penalty for a violation of religious code are all illegal based on the overriding good of the public and existing state and federal laws. In Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (1990), the Supreme Court ruled that Oregon was within its legal right to fire a Native American employee for the use of peyote in a religious ceremony. The court failed to recognize the religious significance of the peyote use and instead viewed it as an illegal substance not protected under the First Amendment or AIRFA.

Many Native American groups and individuals pushed for amendments to AIRFA, which clarified the legality of peyote use for religious purposes and the distinction between its traditional use and use as a recreational drug. In the hearings held by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, the late Professor Vine Deloria testified that “We need to make clear that peyote is a sacramental plant used by American Indians in a sacramental way, going back long before the memory of man. Once that clarification is made, there is no possible way to link it to those other drugs.”

The amendments were considered and passed in the House of Representatives on August 8, 1994, and in the Senate on September 26, 1994. The amendments state that “Non-withstanding any other provision of law, the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any state.” The amendment includes a list of several common sense exceptions and a section prohibiting discrimination based on a Native American’s use of peyote in a religious context.

On May 24, 1996, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13007, “Protection and Accommodation of Access to Indian Sacred Sites.” The order states that executive agencies and departments should “accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites by Indian religious practitioners and avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites. Where appropriate, agencies shall maintain the confidentiality of sacred sites.” It was issued largely in response to the Supreme Court ruling in the Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association. The case resulted from the U.S. Forest Service’s desire to build a road near a Native American religious site. Several tribes were joined by various parties, including the state of California, in seeking a court order to bar the project under AIRFA. The Supreme Court, as stated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, decided that “Whatever rights the Indians may have to use of the area those rights do not divest the Government of its right to use what is, after all, its land.”

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (PL106-274) was signed into law in 2000 by President Clinton. The legislation guarantees access for Native Americans to religious sites located on government property. Section 2 regards the right of Native American prisoners to practice traditional religions. It states, “No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution, . . . even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Articles of Incorporation


Articles of Incorporation


Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp ( F.S.I.C. NAC corp)

(A Colorado Nonprofit Religious Corporation)


    Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp, a Colorado nonprofit corporation under Colorado revised statutes, title 7, articles 121-137, as amended from time to time (the “Colorado revised nonprofit corporation act”), adopts the following articles of incorporation for such corporation.



Article I

Name and Principle office


              The name of the corporation is Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp, of Crestone Colorado. The principle office of the corporation is 1074 Lariat trail, Crestone, Colorado, 81131.


Article II



              The period of its duration shall be perpetual.


Article III



This corporation is a nonprofit religious corporation and is not organized for the private gain of any person. It is organized under the Nonprofit Religious Corporation Law exclusively for religious, spiritual, and educational purposes. The specific purposes for which this corporation is organized is to be an official affiliate of the Native American Church of Itzachilatlan, recognized by the state of Illinois (file no. 86573429) and to cause and secure in principle and deed, the exercise and expression of aboriginal traditions and other indigenous American religious practices in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, The American Indian Religious Freedom act (42 U.S. Code 1996), and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 ( Public Law 103-344), and in accordance with  The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 21 U.S. Code 952, 953, and other pertinent laws; to carry out and perform religious and spiritual ceremonies that include but not exclusively limited to; the Name giving rite, burials, marriages, transport and use of peyote, all night prayer vigils with holy sacrament of peyote, sweat lodges, vision quest, coming of age ceremony, pipe ceremony, staff alliance ceremony, ayahuaska, tobacco, spiritual adoption, ceremonies of personal health, The Sundance, pow wows, community gatherings, ceremonial dances, and other rituals and ceremonies of aboriginal peoples of America with religious and cultural intent or passed via alliances with other organizations or churches. In accordance with spiritual aboriginal traditions and under the protection of The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (42 U.S. Code 1996), The American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 (Public Law 103-344) and in accordance with 21 U.S. Code 952, 953, and other pertinent laws; Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp in Colorado and its rituals have, as a holy sacrament, medicinal plants including but not limited to, Peyote, Ayahuaska, and tobacco. Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp’s objective is to safe keep, administer, protect, facilitate, spread, determine, educate, give full details of, exercise, and express to and for all peoples the indigenous and aboriginal religious ceremonies, ways of spiritual expression, and ways of living according to traditional values. Also its purpose is to promote activities that nourish, stimulate, and further development of human creativity through spiritual expression, cultural identity, cultural art, and historical consciousness, as well as to promote unification of all cultural religious and spiritual workers.



Inurnment, Dissolution, and Powers


  1. This corporation is organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, cultural, educational, spiritual, ceremonial, and scientific purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


  1. Notwithstanding any other provision of these articles, the corporation shall not carry on any other activities not permitted to be carried on (1) by a corporation exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law) or (2) by a corporation contributions to which are deductible under Section 170(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law). Notwithstanding any other provision of these articles, this corporation shall not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of the purposes of this corporation.


  1. No part of the income or net earnings of the corporation shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, any member, director or officer of the corporation or to any other private individual, except that (1) reasonable compensation may be paid for services rendered to or for the corporation affecting one or more of its purposes;(2) reimbursement may be made for any expenses incurred for the corporation by any officer, director, member, agent, or employee, or any other person or corporation pursuant to and upon authorization of the directive council (as defined in Article VII below); and (3) rebates of excess membership dues, fees, or common expense assessments may be made.


  1. In the event of dissolution of the corporation, the property and assets thereof remaining after providing for all obligations shall be distributed pursuant to the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act Article 134.







All rituals and ceremonies of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp are realized with sacred instruments, and include, but are not limited to, plants, bird feathers, animal skins, hides, rattles, drums, stones, staffs, pipes, and dress regalia.



We believe ourselves legitimate and direct heirs to all original ancient indigenous practices, beliefs, and rituals. All rituals and ceremonies of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp are directed with reverence towards our Mother Earth, Father Sun, and the great Creator represented by fire. Accompanying our rituals and ceremonies are sacred traditional songs passed down generations by indigenous peoples for the purpose of ceremonial use.



All rituals of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp are conducted and referred to by a sacred name and a collaborative of custodians whom have legitimate ordination to perform said ceremonies.






In accordance with Colorado Law, Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp is a non-membership Corporation without formal membership as the term is legally defined under Colorado Law.



Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp will have, upon its inception, informal members separate and apart from definition of Formal membership as defined by the laws of Colorado. Members of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp will be granted recognition as “informal members” as such by organization described in this section.

Informal membership does not give members any rights or privileges associated with operations, management, or legal affairs of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp, and therefore informal members will not participate in the act of voting.



Informal members, therefore and further in this section and all sections, will be referred to as membership.




Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp membership, in accordance with, The American Indian Religious Freedom act (42 U.S. Code 1996), and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 ( Public Law 103-344), and in accordance with  The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 21 U.S. Code 952, 953, and other pertinent laws, the rights and freedoms mentioned therein. Therefore granting members all rights and privileges contained therein.



There will exist then four types of members



Beneficiary members: Are those who benefit by helping and collaborating with the activities of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp.



Active members: Those who meet or have met the requisites approved by Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp



Honorary Members: Those who voluntarily show their support and are specially recognized by Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp



General Members: Those who participate in a general manner and support the corporation in its activities.



            General assembly: Made up of all, Founding, beneficiary, active and honorary members of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp.



Details of The Four types of members will be expounded upon in the corporations Bylaws




Let it be known and constituted that the Founding members hereby known as the Directive Council also for Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp is made up of the following persons as appointed by incorporating agent under the authority and supervision of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp:


  1. Christopher Michael Long, 4266 Rambling way, Crestone, CO, 81131
  2. Andrea Marie Long, 4266 Rambling way, Crestone, CO, 81131
  3. Bruce Elaine Waltemyer, 1074 Lariat trail, Crestone, CO, 81131


The Directive Councils members form the core governing council of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp, these members will always retain all rights and privileges within the corporation as the founding leaders of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp, and they can only be removed from position by their own accord. Directive Council members constitute the main governing council and their actions and decisions surpass any decisions made by officers, advisors and or members when it comes to the highest benefit of the Corporation. Their term is indefinite and their positions are only replaced through the act of inheritance with the approval of the other founders.





The Directive Council may appoint a President, one or more vice presidents, a secretary, a treasurer, and other such officers as the Directive Council believes will be in the best interest of the corporation (each an “officer”, collectively known as “Officers”). As provided in the by laws, any two or more offices may be held by the same person, except the President and the secretary. The Officers shall have such duties as may be prescribed to them in the Bylaws and shall serve at the direction and pleasure of the Directive Council.






Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp will also have a directive position known as Spiritual Advisor. Spiritual advisors are those who fulfill all requirements and prerequisites as laid out in the Bylaws and are also appointed by the Directive Council and have a good standing with all officers and members as understood within the Bylaws. Spiritual advisors can be members, Officers, and or Directive Council, but being any of the latter does not necessarily mean being a spiritual advisor. Being a Spiritual Advisor is a privilege and requires strenuous prerequisites and community approval. The Spiritual Advisors duties will be to oversee rituals and ceremonies with the upmost highest reverence, integrity, and diligence in accordance with tradition of how they received the altars and authority to conduct said ceremonies. Spiritual Advisors will not be part of (unless they are Officers, members, and or Directive Council) administrative duties, governing, and or day-to-day maintenance of the Corporation. There will be classifications of types and duties of Spiritual advisors as written in the bylaws, but there will be one original Spiritual Advisor that leads all others and all others have to be approved of by the original Spiritual Advisor. The Bylaws will contain the components of what it means to be the original advisor and will lay the foundation and requirements for all others to become Spiritual advisors.






The initial Bylaws of the Corporation shall be as adopted by the Directive Council. The Directive Council and the Corporations Officers shall have power to alter, amend, or repeal the Bylaws from time to time in force and adopt new Bylaws. The Bylaws from the Corporation may contain any provisions for the regulation or management of the affairs of the Corporation that are not inconsistent with the law or these articles of Incorporation, as these articles may from time to time be amended. However, no articles shall have the effect of giving any director or officer of the corporation any proprietary interest in the Corporation’s property or assets, whether during the term of the corporation’s existence or as an incident to its dissolution.






No member, Officer, Spiritual Advisor or Directive Council member of this Corporation shall be personally liable for the debts or obligations of this Corporation of any nature whatsoever, nor shall any of the property of the members, Officer, advisors, or Directors be subject to the payment of the debts or obligations of this corporation. Nor shall the Corporation be liable for the personal affairs or debts or obligations of any member, Officer, advisor, or director. The Corporation is solely responsible for anything done under the name of Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp (unless the Corporations named is used fraudulently) as approved and guided by the directive council. Indemnification will by addressed in the Bylaws. All participants in rituals and ceremonies will agree and consent to the Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp Waiver and release form, either through signing the contract or verbally agreeing to it or most importantly agree to it by the act of participation itself, as long as all participants will be made available copies of the Waiver and release form and will be provided the opportunity to object and or learn more about the Waiver and release form, also that it is clearly stated before the ceremonies that participating is an act agreeing to the Waiver and release Form which will be attached to the Bylaws. All members, officers, Advisors, and Directors will have to have signed a copy of the waiver and release form.






The initial registered office of the corporation shall be 1074 Lartiat trail, Crestone CO, 81131. The Initial registered agent at such office shall be, Bruce Elaine Waltemyer, PO 992, Crestone, CO, 81131.



These Articles of Incorporation may be amended from time to time in the manner set forth in the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act, provided always that such amendments are consistent with the terms and provisions of the Declaration.

  1. In the event of a conflict between the terms and provisions of these Articles and the terms and provisions of the Declaration, the terms and provisions of the Declaration shall govern and control.
  2. In the event of a conflict between the terms and provisions of these Articles and the terms and provisions of the Bylaws adopted by the Directive Council, the terms and provisions of these Articles shall govern and control.



The name and address of the incorporator of the corporation is:

Christopher Michael Long, 4266 Rambling Way, PO 591, Crestone, CO, 81131.




I, the undersigned, am the person named as the Incorporating agent by Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan of Colorado Native American Church Corp. The name and mailing address of the individual who cause this document to be delivered for filing, and to whom the Secretary of State may deliver notice if filing of this document is refused is; Christopher Michael Long, 4266 Rambling Way, PO 591, Crestone, CO, 81131.



Religious Rights

 Religious Rights

If you are are experiencing Religious persecution click the links below to learn what to do about it. Be sure to read our other posts under the category of  LAW

Click here to Read the American Indian Religious Freedom Act !

Click here to read The Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

The Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. The office is headed by Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook. We monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom

department_of_state.svgInternational Coalition for Religious Freedom  “is a non-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender, or ethnic origin.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice,  created in 1957 by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.


The First Amendment Center, We support the First Amendment and build understanding of its core freedoms through education, information and entertainment.

Religious Tolerance, Ontario consultants on religious tolerance. An awesome site!

American Center for Law and Justice  (ACLJ) and its globally affiliated organizations are committed to ensuring the ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.

American Civil Liberties Union,The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.


First Freedom Center , The mission of the First Freedom Center is to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Image result for First Freedom Center

The Leadership Conference,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. 

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, The Research Institute of The ERLC represents an evangelical think tank that includes university and seminary presidents, academic deans, professors, lawyers, doctors, theologians, and other evangelical scholars.

The Freedom Forum On Line, The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the government.

Liberty Counsel, Restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.

People For the American Way, Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry.


The Rutherford Institute, Dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights.

Religion Link, All of our writers have years of experience in the field of religion reporting. They are well versed in the many religions and issues that are covered in mainstream media.

USCIRF, is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.

Concerned Women for America, through its Board of Trustees has established Religious Liberty as one of its seven core issues on which we focus our efforts.

Liberty Institute, Unfortunately, religious liberty is under attack — in our churches, in our schools and in the public arena – like never before in American history.

American Religious Freedom, Protecting religious freedom for all Faiths.

American Religious Freedom Program

La Piedra que Canta Afiliación


 Afiliación con la piedra que canta implica varias cosas. Primero y más importante es la protección bajo la Ley de Libertad Religiosa indio americano como miembro de La Iglesia Nativa Americana y / o profesional de buena fe de la tradición espiritual de América Indígena.

membership card back, spanish

membership card Spanish

Paso 1. Usted tendrá que llenar nuestra solicitud de adhesión (Abajo).

Paso 2. Haga una donación para la suscripción de Membership.

Miembro General Durante un año es de $ 100

Convertirse en un miembro de por vida por $ 1000

(EE.UU. Dólares Americanos)

  • Problemas? no hay dinero? Consulte con nosotros, somos muy flexibles.
  • Pregunta acerca de las tarifas de grupos, proteja a su grupo, Congregación y la familia.
  • 25% de descuento senior y veteranos.

Le enviaremos su tarjeta por correo, Tendrá un ID #. En el caso de que alguien necesita para verificar su membresía (Ley con la observancia empleador, etc.), simplemente pídale que llame a nuestro número para verificar su membresía. También existe la opción en línea de verificación a través de nuestro sitio así. Háganos saber si usted quiere beneficios específicos tales como exenciones religiosas. Sólo tienes que escribir cualquier comentario o peticiones en la aplicación anterior.

Privilegios de los miembros:

  • La prueba de la membresía en EE.UU.
  • asistir a las ceremonias
  • Patrocinador ceremonias privadas.
  • Tener una voz en las reuniones del consejo.
  • Servir en los comités.
  • Recibir boletines trimestrales.**
  • Sea parte de nuestra red internacional.
  • Tener a corto plazo se mantiene en nuestros jardines comunitarios.
  • Tenga cuidado de los niños y los beneficios educativos.
  • Tienen descuentos miembros especiales.
  • Participar en retiros y clases *.
  • Tener acceso y el uso de nuestras instalaciones *.
  • tener una suscripción para los miembros de acceso en nuestro sitio web. **
  • Llega a ser elegible para asistir a ceremonias especiales *.
  • Llega a ser elegible para vivir como un residente de la comunidad *.
  • Llega a ser elegible para ocupar cargos directivos *.
  • Llega a ser elegible para las decisiones de cuidado de la salud y el entierro nativo*.

* Consulte con nosotros acerca de los requisitos de elegibilidad y restricciones.

** Para conectarse a nuestros miembros sólo suscripción de nuestro sitio web, utilice su dirección de correo electrónico como nombre de usuario e introduzca su Membresía ID # pase.

Tenemos cuatro diferentes niveles de membresía en función de participación. Al participar y estar más involucrados en las actividades, uno puede tener más privilegios y responsabilidades de nuestra comunidad. Uno puede incluso convertirse en un miembro mediante la participación solo. El registro puede ser concedida, prorrogado o levantado por la piedra que canta (The Singing Stone) en cualquier momento.

The Singing Stone Membership


Membership with The Singing Stone implies several things. First and foremost is Protection under The American Indian Religious Freedom Act as a member of The Native American Church and/or bona fide practitioner of Indigenous American spiritual Tradition.

membership cardmembership card back

Click here to read about The American Indian Religious Freedom Act!

Click here to read about our Freedom of Religion!

As a member you will have Special exempt status and be protected in the use of Sacraments, Instruments and Regalia.

Step 1. You will have to fill out our membership application (Below).

Step 2. Make a donation for subscription to Membership.

General Membership For one year is $100

Become a lifetime member for $1000

  • All Members are Protected under The American Indian Religious Freedom act, The First Amendment
    and The United Nations Article 18 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Ask about group rates, protect your group, Congregation and family.
  • Senior and veterans 25% discount. $75 for a General Membership.
  • Problems? no money? Check with us, we are very flexible.

We will send your card in the mail, It will have an I.D.#. In the event that anyone needs to verify your Membership (Law enforcement- Employer, etc.), simply have them call our number to verify your Membership. There is also the online option of verification through our site as well. Let us know If you want specific benefits such as Religious exemptions. Just type any comments or requests in the application above.

Membership Privileges:

  • Protection under The A.I.R.F.A.
  • Attend ceremonies
  • Sponsor private Ceremonies.
  • Have a voice at council meetings.
  • Serve on committees.
  • Receive quarterly newsletters.**
  • Be a part of our International network.
  • Have short term stays on our Community grounds.
  • Have Child care and Educational benefits.
  • Have special Member discounts.
  • Take part in retreats and classes*.
  • Have access and use of our facilities*.
  • Gain a subscription to members only access on our Website.**
  • Become eligible To attend special ceremonies*.
  • Become eligible to live as a community resident*.
  • Become eligible for Leadership roles*.
  • Become eligible for Health Care decisions and Native burial*.
Click here to get a copy of our waiver and release form.
 * Inquire with us about Eligibility Requirements and restrictions.

** To log on to our Members only subscription of our website, use your email address as your user name and enter your Membership I.D.# as the pass word.

We have four different levels of membership depending on your involvement with The Singing Stone. By participating and being more involved in activities, one can have more privileges and Responsibilities in our community. One can even become a member through participation alone. Membership can be granted, extended or terminated by The Singing Stone at any time.