Group 2: Brittany Ritter, Nicole Ritter, Jeremy Chase, Jerica Chase
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” A political principle that forbids government constraint on people in their choice of beliefs is the freedom of religion. It requires that one be free to act upon those beliefs. It includes the freedom to worship, to print instructional material, to train teachers, and to organize societies for their employment. Freedom of religion is closely joined with other freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. We Americans have the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion.
For hundreds of years, people have been persecuted for their religious affiliation. However, before the 18th century, religious toleration was hardly evident. Within the U.S. Constitution religious freedom is based on principle. There have been several attempts by the government to regulate religion. For example in the 16th and 17th century the state tried to regulate the Church of England. As most of us have learned, settlers ventured to the new world with hope of escaped religious persecution. Many broke away from the Church of England. Some of these early colonies were not tolerant of certain forms of worship. This is when denominations of different liking were established. Not far after, the Bill of Rights was proposed in 1789. Principles were set forth to separate state power from the church.
Separating church and state in the United States has not been easy and we still battle with issues today. The First Amendment wishes the federal government to be “neutral.” However small things such as the requirement of church building codes, fire regulations, and sanitation laws sometimes get in the way. The “Free Exercise” and “Establishment” clauses constantly clash. For example, Mormon Polygamy claims based on the “Free Exercise” clause, were found unconstitutional. However, as we all know this very same clause has eliminated flag salutes in many public schools. On the other hand, the establishment clause is there to maintain that the government does not show preference to any religion.
- Freedom of Religion, Elwyn A. Smith. http://www.holysmoke.org