While many Americans are aware that the bill of rights affords them the freedom of religion, they may not know much else about their religious rights. The United States is a good place to practice any religion, and those who want to practice their faith can do so without fear of government intrusion. This was a freedom that was important enough to be specifically included by the founders of the country in the bill of rights and the constitution.
Maryland First Had This Right
Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Americans were already thinking about protecting their religions. In the first constitution drafted for the colony of Maryland, it was specifically mentioned that the right to religious freedom was important. Later on the Maryland Toleration Act was enacted, protecting those from getting into trouble for practicing their religion.
There Are Some Limits
While the rights of religious practices are generally protected by the Supreme Court, there are some notable exceptions. One of these was a group that was practicing polygamy, and this was part of their religion. However, several members of this group were convicted of breaking the law. In general, there are some limits regarding the way that religious groups act and how they must conduct themselves. This included groups that support vampirism or certain types of sacrifice.
Religious Tests Can’t Be Required to Hold Office
Interestingly, those who hold specific types of office won’t have to do anything in taking their position that would violate their religion. Certain sects of various religions, including Quakers, aren’t allowed to swear an oath. In this case, they will be allowed to take office without swearing this kind of oath. Religious tests can’t be required to take office, particularly to keep people from discriminating against various religions.
There Is Still Religious Language on the Books
Certain states still have wording suggesting that specific religions should be required of those who are currently in office or of those who are going to serve on a jury. However, many Supreme Courts have mentioned that while this may be the case, they are contradictory to the constitution. That has continued to mean that these particular laws can’t be enforced.
Supreme Court and Jehovah Witnesses
In order to protect their freedom to continue preaching to people, the Jehovah Witnesses have ended up before the Supreme Court dozens of times. Out of 72 cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Jehovah Witnesses 47 times. Through these cases, religious freedoms have been more clearly defined. Also, they were the first group to bring a case regarding freedom of speech and freedom and religion. Until that point, freedom of religion cases generally only applied to congress.
These are some of the more interesting facts about the religious rights in America. This country offers some of the best protection for religious freedoms, but there are some limits. How these freedoms are defined has been evolving throughout the years since the country was born, and it will continue to do so.
Today’s guest post was written by R. Swingle, blogger for Apopka Calvary. He is an avid writer who lives in Orlando, Florida.
- Religious freedom is ‘fundamental human right’, says Baroness Warsi (christiantoday.com)
- John Kerry: Freedom of Speech, Thought, & Religion Also Means the Right ‘to Be Stupid’ (theblaze.com)
- Atheist Activists Trying to Get ‘In God We Trust’ Off U.S. Currency Dealt Major Blow (theblaze.com)
- Teenage Jehovah’s Witness loses court bid to refuse life-saving blood transfusion (richarddawkins.net)