Freedom of Religion
Scope of Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion refers to a principle that supports an individual’s or community’s freedom to manifest religion or any belief in teaching, worship, practice, and observance in public or private. It also incorporates the freedom to change or indulge in any belief that one pleases. Consequently, in many nations, the freedom of religion is considered to be a fundamental human right (Gedicks, 2005). In the United States, faith is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs as well as practices. Typically the country is characterized by a significant degree of religious pluralism and hence diversity. In the contemporary times, different faiths have emerged and flourished within the United States, and they include but not limited to Anglicans, Catholics Protestants, Jews, and Muslims among others. Consequently, legalities concerning religious Law in America are best understood as a wide spectrum of interpretation that grants religious groups the freedom of expression and religious symbols displays (Gedicks, 2005). Hence, the first amendment to the constitution of the United States guarantees the freedom of religion, expression, assembly, and an individual’s or community’s right to petition.
However, it restricts Congress from promoting one’s religion over others as well as curtailing an individual’s religious beliefs and practices. The amendment guarantees the freedom of religious expression through symbols by prohibiting the Congress from interfering or restricting the rights of individuals to speak and express themselves freely. Additionally, it guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peacefully.
Rationale of Religion Freedom
Religious freedom is considered to be a fundamental human right. Consequently, courts and scholars across jurisdiction consider personal autonomy as the primary rationale for an individual’s right to religious freedom. However, tensions exist regarding autonomy, religious practice, and proselytism (Taylor, & Hawley, 2003). The freedom of religion enables one to exercise independence in making choices and shaping self throughreligion beliefs and values. Moreover, within religion freedom, choices are attached to the act of choosing rather than to particular outcomes.
Separation of Churches and Courts Ruling On Freedom of Religion
The concept of separation of the church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept used to define the political distance between religious organizations and federal governments. Conceptually, it is used to express one’s understanding of the intent and functionality of the free exercise clause of the first amendments to the constitution. Article six of the United States constitution expresses that no religious test is required to hold office or any open office’s trust. In McCollum V. Board of Education Dist. 71 case, the court found that religious directions in government funded schools were infringing upon the foundation provisions and hence subsequently illegal. Additionally, in Torcaso V. Watkins case, the court stated that the state of Maryland could not require applicants wishing to vie for public offices to swear that they believed in God as it violated the establishment clause (Taylor, & Hawley, 2003).
In contradiction with the concept of separations of religion from the state, in the Zorach V. Clauson case, the supreme court of America upheld accommodation between religion and the state by holding that the government’s recognition of God does not entail the establishment of a constitutional church. Thus, constitutional principles are not absolute and proper separation of religion, and the state remains work in progress and an impassionate debate (Taylor, & Hawley, 2003).
Current Relevance of the Concept of Separation of Church and State
The United States constitution separates the state from religion such that none influences the other. Prayers and other public religious teachings have since been abolished since laws must have a secular legislative purpose and basic effect that neither inhibit nor advances religion (English, 2004).
English, J. C. (January 01, 2004). John Wesley, the Establishment of Religion, and the Separation of Church and State. Journal of Church and State, 46, 83-98. Retrieved from http://www.adamhamilton.org/files/uploads/ConfrontSampleChapter.pdf
Gedicks, F. M. (January 01, 2005). The Permissible Scope of Legal Limitations on the Freedom of Religion or Belief in the United States. Emory International Law Review, 19, 2, 1187-1275. Retrieved from http://law.emory.edu/eilr/content/volume-25/issue-3/comments/international-cultural-park51-mosque-ground-zero.html
Taylor, G., & Hawley, H. (January 01, 2003). Freedom of Religion in America. Contemporary Review, 282, 344-350. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265143103_Religion_as_a_Site_of_Boundary_Construction_Islam_and_the_Integration_of_Turkish_Americans_in_the_United_States