Principles of American Democracy
What Is Freedom of Religion

What is freedom of religion?

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right that protects an individual's ability to practice, change, or abstain from a religion or belief without interference, persecution, or discrimination. It is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.

In the context of the United States, freedom of religion is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." This is commonly interpreted as providing two fundamental religious protections: the "Establishment Clause" and the "Free Exercise Clause."

  • The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing a national religion, preferring one religion over another, or preferring religion over non-religion. It ensures the separation of church and state.

  • The Free Exercise Clause protects citizens' rights to practice their religious beliefs freely. However, this freedom is not absolute; it can be limited if religious practices conflict with public morals or endanger health, safety, or welfare.

Overall, freedom of religion is a cornerstone of a pluralistic society that respects diversity and individual liberty. It allows people to live according to their deeply held beliefs and contributes to a tolerant and free society.