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.
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 The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed.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. Currently, peyote and ayahuasca are allowed by legal precedent if used in a religious ceremony.
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.
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.
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.)
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 The 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 objects
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 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.
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 don’t be pushed around!
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