The free practice of Religion - History

The free practice of Religion - History

The Bill of Rights insures the freedom of individuals to practice their religion. That right is not considered unlimited, however. The freedom to practice religion does not give an individual the right to violate the law..



The Bill of Rights guarantees the free exercise of religion. The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that someone's religion does not give that person the right to violate societal norms and laws. The basic doctrine was laid down by the Supreme Court in the decision of Reynolds v. United States. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Mormon for violating a federal law banning polygamy (having more than one wife) in any territory of the United States. In the decision, the Court stated that freedom of religion does not permit every citizen to become a law to himself. The Court has further defined the issue in the cases of Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), in which it upheld the law that required vaccinations; in Bunn v. North Carolina (1949), in which it upheld the law forbidding the use of poisonous snakes; and in McGowan v. Maryland (1961), in which it upheld "blue laws" requiring businesses to be closed on Sundays.

The Supreme Court has held that religions may be required to a have a permit to hold a parade (Cox v. New Hampshire, 1941); that child labor laws must be obeyed (Prince v. Massachusetts, 1944); and even that those who oppose military service on religious grounds can be drafted. In Goldman v. Weinberger (1986), the Court ruled that an Orthodox Jew did not have the right to wear his yarmulke (skull cap) while on active duty.

On the other hand, the Court has issued numerous rulings upholding religious freedom in cases such as Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940). In that case, the court held that a law requiring a license be issued before anyone could solicit money for a religious group was unconstitutional. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the Court ruled that Amish school children could not be forced to go to school beyond eighth grade. The Court has also held that a state may not forbid ministers from holding public office ( McDanial v, Paty, 1978).

What does “free exercise” of religion mean under the First Amendment?

The free-exercise clause of the First Amendment states that the government “shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” Although the text sounds absolute, “no law” does not always mean “no law.” The Supreme Court has had to place some limits on the freedom to practice religion. To take an easy example cited by the Court in one of its landmark “free-exercise” cases (Reynolds v. U.S., 1878), the First Amendment would not protect the practice of human sacrifice even if some religion required it. In other words, while the freedom to believe is absolute, the freedom to act on those beliefs is not.

But where may government draw the line on the practice of religion? The courts have struggled with the answer to that question for much of our history. Over time, the Supreme Court developed a test to help judges determine the limits of free exercise. First fully articulated in the 1963 case of Sherbert v. Verner, this test is sometimes referred to as the Sherbert or “compelling interest” test. The test has four parts: two that apply to any person who claims that his freedom of religion has been violated, and two that apply to the government agency accused of violating those rights.

For the individual, the court must determine

Whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and

Whether the government action places a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief.

If these two elements are established, then the government must prove

That it is acting in furtherance of a “compelling state interest,” and

That it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.

The Supreme Court, however, curtailed the application of the Sherbert test in the 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith. In that case, the Court held that a burden on free exercise no longer had to be justified by a compelling state interest if the burden was an unintended result of laws that are generally applicable.

After Smith, only laws (or government actions) that (1) were intended to prohibit the free exercise of religion, or (2) violated other constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, were subject to the compelling-interest test. For example, a state could not pass a law stating that Native Americans are prohibited from using peyote, but it could accomplish the same result by prohibiting the use of peyote by everyone.

In the wake of Smith, many religious and civil liberties groups have worked to restore the Sherbert test — or compelling-interest test — through legislation. These efforts have been successful in some states. In other states, the courts have ruled that the compelling-interest test is applicable to religious claims by virtue of the state’s own constitution. In many states, however, the level of protection for free-exercise claims is uncertain.

America’s True History of Religious Tolerance

Wading into the controversy surrounding an Islamic center planned for a site near New York City’s Ground Zero memorial this past August, President Obama declared: “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.” In doing so, he paid homage to a vision that politicians and preachers have extolled for more than two centuries—that America historically has been a place of religious tolerance. It was a sentiment George Washington voiced shortly after taking the oath of office just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

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In the storybook version most of us learned in school, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since these religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as their governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.

The problem is that this tidy narrative is an American myth. The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side. And much of the recent conversation about America’s ideal of religious freedom has paid lip service to this comforting tableau.

From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”

First, a little overlooked history: the initial encounter between Europeans in the future United States came with the establishment of a Huguenot (French Protestant) colony in 1564 at Fort Caroline (near modern Jacksonville, Florida). More than half a century before the Mayflower set sail, French pilgrims had come to America in search of religious freedom.

The Spanish had other ideas. In 1565, they established a forward operating base at St. Augustine and proceeded to wipe out the Fort Caroline colony. The Spanish commander, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, wrote to the Spanish King Philip II that he had “hanged all those we had found in [Fort Caroline] because. they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.” When hundreds of survivors of a shipwrecked French fleet washed up on the beaches of Florida, they were put to the sword, beside a river the Spanish called Matanzas (“slaughters”). In other words, the first encounter between European Christians in America ended in a blood bath.

The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.

The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.

Throughout the colonial era, Anglo-American antipathy toward Catholics—especially French and Spanish Catholics—was pronounced and often reflected in the sermons of such famous clerics as Cotton Mather and in statutes that discriminated against Catholics in matters of property and voting. Anti-Catholic feelings even contributed to the revolutionary mood in America after King George III extended an olive branch to French Catholics in Canada with the Quebec Act of 1774, which recognized their religion.

When George Washington dispatched Benedict Arnold on a mission to court French Canadians’ support for the American Revolution in 1775, he cautioned Arnold not to let their religion get in the way. “Prudence, policy and a true Christian Spirit,” Washington advised, “will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors, without insulting them.” (After Arnold betrayed the American cause, he publicly cited America’s alliance with Catholic France as one of his reasons for doing so.)

In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.

In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”

Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every. man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

As a Christian, Madison also noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, “disavows a dependence on the powers of this world. for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”

Recognizing the idea of America as a refuge for the protester or rebel, Madison also argued that Henry’s proposal was “a departure from that generous policy, which offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country.”

After long debate, Patrick Henry’s bill was defeated, with the opposition outnumbering supporters 12 to 1. Instead, the Virginia legislature took up Jefferson’s plan for the separation of church and state. In 1786, the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, modified somewhat from Jefferson’s original draft, became law. The act is one of three accomplishments Jefferson included on his tombstone, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (He omitted his presidency of the United States.) After the bill was passed, Jefferson proudly wrote that the law “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. The men who fought the Revolution may have thanked Providence and attended church regularly—or not. But they also fought a war against a country in which the head of state was the head of the church. Knowing well the history of religious warfare that led to America’s settlement, they clearly understood both the dangers of that system and of sectarian conflict.

It was the recognition of that divisive past by the founders—notably Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison—that secured America as a secular republic. As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. . For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

He was addressing the members of America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (where his letter is read aloud every August). In closing, he wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

As for Adams and Jefferson, they would disagree vehemently over policy, but on the question of religious freedom they were united. “In their seventies,” Jacoby writes, “with a friendship that had survived serious political conflicts, Adams and Jefferson could look back with satisfaction on what they both considered their greatest achievement—their role in establishing a secular government whose legislators would never be required, or permitted, to rule on the legality of theological views.”

Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

While some of America’s early leaders were models of virtuous tolerance, American attitudes were slow to change. The anti-Catholicism of America’s Calvinist past found new voice in the 19th century. The belief widely held and preached by some of the most prominent ministers in America was that Catholics would, if permitted, turn America over to the pope. Anti-Catholic venom was part of the typical American school day, along with Bible readings. In Massachusetts, a convent—coincidentally near the site of the Bunker Hill Monument—was burned to the ground in 1834 by an anti-Catholic mob incited by reports that young women were being abused in the convent school. In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, anti-Catholic sentiment, combined with the country’s anti-immigrant mood, fueled the Bible Riots of 1844, in which houses were torched, two Catholic churches were destroyed and at least 20 people were killed.

At about the same time, Joseph Smith founded a new American religion—and soon met with the wrath of the mainstream Protestant majority. In 1832, a mob tarred and feathered him, marking the beginning of a long battle between Christian America and Smith’s Mormonism. In October 1838, after a series of conflicts over land and religious tension, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered that all Mormons be expelled from his state. Three days later, rogue militiamen massacred 17 church members, including children, at the Mormon settlement of Haun’s Mill. In 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum while they were jailed in Carthage, Illinois. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

Even as late as 1960, Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy felt compelled to make a major speech declaring that his loyalty was to America, not the pope. (And as recently as the 2008 Republican primary campaign, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney felt compelled to address the suspicions still directed toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Of course, America’s anti-Semitism was practiced institutionally as well as socially for decades. With the great threat of “godless” Communism looming in the 1950s, the country’s fear of atheism also reached new heights.

America can still be, as Madison perceived the nation in 1785, “an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion.” But recognizing that deep religious discord has been part of America’s social DNA is a healthy and necessary step. When we acknowledge that dark past, perhaps the nation will return to that “promised. lustre” of which Madison so grandiloquently wrote.

Kenneth C. Davis is the author of Don’t Know Much About History and A Nation Rising, among other books.


Historically, freedom of religion has been used to refer to the tolerance of different theological systems of belief, while freedom of worship has been defined as freedom of individual action. Each of these have existed to varying degrees. While many countries have accepted some form of religious freedom, this has also often been limited in practice through punitive taxation, repressive social legislation, and political disenfranchisement. Compare examples of individual freedom in Italy or the Muslim tradition of dhimmis, literally "protected individuals" professing an officially tolerated non-Muslim religion.

In Antiquity, a syncretic point of view often allowed communities of traders to operate under their own customs. When street mobs of separate quarters clashed in a Hellenistic or Roman city, the issue was generally perceived to be an infringement of community rights.

Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenid Empire ca. 550 BC, and initiated a general policy of permitting religious freedom throughout the empire, documenting this on the Cyrus Cylinder. [7] [8]

Some of the historical exceptions have been in regions where one of the revealed religions has been in a position of power: Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Others have been where the established order has felt threatened, as shown in the trial of Socrates in 399 BC.

Freedom of religious worship was established in the Buddhist Maurya Empire of ancient India by Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BC, which was encapsulated in the Edicts of Ashoka.

Greek–Jewish clashes at Cyrene in 73 AD and 117 AD and in Alexandria in 115 AD provide examples of cosmopolitan cities as scenes of tumult.

The Romans tolerated most religions, including Judaism and encouraged local subjects to continue worshipping their own gods. They did not however, tolerate Christianity until it was legalised by the Roman emperor Galerius in 311. The early Christian apologist Tertullian was the first-known writer referring to the term libertas religionis. [9] The Edict of Milan guaranteed freedom of religion in the Roman Empire until the Edict of Thessalonica in 380, which outlawed all religions except Christianity.

Genghis Khan was one of the first rulers who in 13th century enacted a law explicitly guaranteeing religious freedom to everyone and every religion. [10]

Muslim world Edit

Following a period of fighting lasting around a hundred years before 620 AD which mainly involved Arab and Jewish inhabitants of Medina (then known as Yathrib), religious freedom for Muslims, Jews and pagans was declared by Muhammad in the Constitution of Medina. In early Muslim history (until mid 11th century), most Islamic scholars maintained a level of separation from the state which helped to establish some elements of institutional religious freedom. The Islamic Caliphate later guaranteed religious freedom under the conditions that non-Muslim communities accept dhimmi status and their adult males pay the punitive jizya tax instead of the zakat paid by Muslim citizens. [11] Though Dhimmis were not given the same political rights as Muslims, they nevertheless did enjoy equality under the laws of property, contract, and obligation. [12] [13] [14]

Religious pluralism existed in classical Islamic ethics and Sharia, as the religious laws and courts of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, Al-Andalus, Indian subcontinent, and the Ottoman Millet system. [15] [16] In medieval Islamic societies, the qadi (Islamic judges) usually could not interfere in the matters of non-Muslims unless the parties voluntarily choose to be judged according to Islamic law, thus the dhimmi communities living in Islamic states usually had their own laws independent from the Sharia law, such as the Jews who would have their own Halakha courts. [17]

Dhimmis were allowed to operate their own courts following their own legal systems in cases that did not involve other religious groups, or capital offences or threats to public order. [18] Non-Muslims were allowed to engage in religious practices that were usually forbidden by Islamic law, such as the consumption of alcohol and pork, as well as religious practices which Muslims found repugnant, such as the Zoroastrian practice of incestuous "self-marriage" where a man could marry his mother, sister or daughter. According to the famous Islamic legal scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292–1350), non-Muslims had the right to engage in such religious practices even if it offended Muslims, under the conditions that such cases not be presented to Islamic Sharia courts and that these religious minorities believed that the practice in question is permissible according to their religion. [19]

Despite Dhimmis enjoying special statuses under the Caliphates, they were not considered equals, and sporadic persecutions of non-Muslim groups did occur in the history of the Caliphates. [20] [21] [22]

India Edit

Ancient Jews fleeing from persecution in their homeland 2,500 years ago settled in India and never faced anti-Semitism. [23] Freedom of religion edicts have been found written during Ashoka the Great's reign in the 3rd century BC. Freedom to practise, preach and propagate any religion is a constitutional right in Modern India. Most major religious festivals of the main communities are included in the list of national holidays.

Although India is an 80% Hindu country, India is a secular state without any state religions.

Many scholars and intellectuals believe that India's predominant religion, Hinduism, has long been a most tolerant religion. [24] Rajni Kothari, founder of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies has written, "[India] is a country built on the foundations of a civilisation that is fundamentally non-religious." [25]

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader in exile, said that religious tolerance of 'Aryabhoomi,' a reference to India found in the Mahabharata, has been in existence in this country from thousands of years. "Not only Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism which are the native religions but also Christianity and Islam have flourished here. Religious tolerance is inherent in Indian tradition," the Dalai Lama said. [26]

Freedom of religion in the Indian subcontinent is exemplified by the reign of King Piyadasi (304–232 BC) (Ashoka). One of King Ashoka's main concerns was to reform governmental institutes and exercise moral principles in his attempt to create a just and humane society. Later he promoted the principles of Buddhism, and the creation of a just, understanding and fair society was held as an important principle for many ancient rulers of this time in the East.

The importance of freedom of worship in India was encapsulated in an inscription of Ashoka:

King Piyadasi (Ashok) dear to the Gods, honours all sects, the ascetics (hermits) or those who dwell at home, he honours them with charity and in other ways. But the King, dear to the Gods, attributes less importance to this charity and these honours than to the vow of seeing the reign of virtues, which constitutes the essential part of them. For all these virtues there is a common source, modesty of speech. That is to say, one must not exalt one's creed discrediting all others, nor must one degrade these others without legitimate reasons. One must, on the contrary, render to other creeds the honour befitting them.

On the main Asian continent, the Mongols were tolerant of religions. People could worship as they wished freely and openly.

After the arrival of Europeans, Christians in their zeal to convert local as per belief in conversion as service of God, have also been seen to fall into frivolous methods since their arrival, though by and large there are hardly any reports of law and order disturbance from mobs with Christian beliefs, except perhaps in the north eastern region of India. [27]

Freedom of religion in contemporary India is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25 of the nation's constitution. Accordingly, every citizen of India has a right to profess, practice and propagate their religions peacefully. [28]

In September 2010, the Indian state of Kerala's State Election Commissioner announced that "Religious heads cannot issue calls to vote for members of a particular community or to defeat the nonbelievers". [29] The Catholic Church comprising Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites used to give clear directions to the faithful on exercising their franchise during elections through pastoral letters issued by bishops or council of bishops. The pastoral letter issued by Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) on the eve of the poll urged the faithful to shun atheists. [29]

Even today, most Indians celebrate all religious festivals with equal enthusiasm and respect. Hindu festivals like Deepavali and Holi, Muslim festivals like Eid al-Fitr, Eid-Ul-Adha, Muharram, Christian festivals like Christmas and other festivals like Buddha Purnima, Mahavir Jayanti, Gur Purab etc. are celebrated and enjoyed by all Indians.

Europe Edit

Religious intolerance Edit

Most Roman Catholic kingdoms kept a tight rein on religious expression throughout the Middle Ages. Jews were alternately tolerated and persecuted, the most notable examples of the latter being the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492. Some of those who remained and converted were tried as heretics in the Inquisition for allegedly practicing Judaism in secret. Despite the persecution of Jews, they were the most tolerated non-Catholic faith in Europe.

However, the latter was in part a reaction to the growing movement that became the Reformation. As early as 1380, John Wycliffe in England denied transubstantiation and began his translation of the Bible into English. He was condemned in a Papal Bull in 1410, and all his books were burned.

In 1414, Jan Hus, a Bohemian preacher of reformation, was given a safe conduct by the Holy Roman Emperor to attend the Council of Constance. Not entirely trusting in his safety, he made his will before he left. His forebodings proved accurate, and he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415. The Council also decreed that Wycliffe's remains be disinterred and cast out. This decree was not carried out until 1429.

After the fall of the city of Granada, Spain, in 1492, the Muslim population was promised religious freedom by the Treaty of Granada, but that promise was short-lived. In 1501, Granada's Muslims were given an ultimatum to either convert to Christianity or to emigrate. The majority converted, but only superficially, continuing to dress and speak as they had before and to secretly practice Islam. The Moriscos (converts to Christianity) were ultimately expelled from Spain between 1609 (Castile) and 1614 (rest of Spain), by Philip III.

Martin Luther published his famous 95 Theses in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. His major aim was theological, summed up in the three basic dogmas of Protestantism:

  • The Bible only is infallible.
  • Every Christian can interpret it.
  • Human sins are so wrongful that no deed or merit, only God's grace, can lead to salvation.

In consequence, Luther hoped to stop the sale of indulgences and to reform the Church from within. In 1521, he was given the chance to recant at the Diet of Worms before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. After he refused to recant, he was declared heretic. Partly for his own protection, he was sequestered on the Wartburg in the possessions of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, where he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated by Papal Bull in 1521.

However, the movement continued to gain ground in his absence and spread to Switzerland. Huldrych Zwingli preached reform in Zürich from 1520 to 1523. He opposed the sale of indulgences, celibacy, pilgrimages, pictures, statues, relics, altars, and organs. This culminated in outright war between the Swiss cantons that accepted Protestantism and the Catholics. In 1531, the Catholics were victorious, and Zwingli was killed in battle. The Catholic cantons made peace with Zurich and Berne. [30]

The defiance of Papal authority proved contagious, and in 1533, when Henry VIII of England was excommunicated for his divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn, he promptly established a state church with bishops appointed by the crown. This was not without internal opposition, and Thomas More, who had been his Lord Chancellor, was executed in 1535 for opposition to Henry.

In 1535, the Swiss canton of Geneva became Protestant. In 1536, the Bernese imposed the reformation on the canton of Vaud by conquest. They sacked the cathedral in Lausanne and destroyed all its art and statuary. John Calvin, who had been active in Geneva was expelled in 1538 in a power struggle, but he was invited back in 1540.

The same kind of seesaw back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism was evident in England when Mary I of England returned that country briefly to the Catholic fold in 1553 and persecuted Protestants. However, her half-sister, Elizabeth I of England was to restore the Church of England in 1558, this time permanently, and began to persecute Catholics again. The King James Bible commissioned by King James I of England and published in 1611 proved a landmark for Protestant worship, with official Catholic forms of worship being banned.

In France, although peace was made between Protestants and Catholics at the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1570, persecution continued, most notably in the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day on 24 August 1572, in which thousands of Protestants throughout France were killed. A few years before, at the "Michelade" of Nîmes in 1567, Protestants had massacred the local Catholic clergy.

Early steps and attempts in the way of tolerance Edit

The Norman Kingdom of Sicily under Roger II was characterized by its multi-ethnic nature and religious tolerance. Normans, Jews, Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, and native Sicilians lived in harmony. [31] [32] [ failed verification ] Rather than exterminate the Muslims of Sicily, Roger II's grandson Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1215–1250) allowed them to settle on the mainland and build mosques. Not least, he enlisted them in his – Christian – army and even into his personal bodyguards. [33] [ need quotation to verify ] [34] [ need quotation to verify ]

Kingdom of Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic) enjoyed religious freedom between 1436 and 1620 as a result of the Bohemian Reformation, and became one of the most liberal countries of the Christian world during that period of time. The so-called Basel Compacts of 1436 declared the freedom of religion and peace between Catholics and Utraquists. In 1609 Emperor Rudolf II granted Bohemia greater religious liberty with his Letter of Majesty. The privileged position of the Catholic Church in the Czech kingdom was firmly established after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Gradually freedom of religion in Bohemian lands came to an end and Protestants fled or were expelled from the country. A devout Catholic, Emperor Ferdinand II forcibly converted Austrian and Bohemian Protestants. [35]

In the meantime, in Germany Philip Melanchthon drafted the Augsburg Confession as a common confession for the Lutherans and the free territories. It was presented to Charles V in 1530.

In the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V agreed to tolerate Lutheranism in 1555 at the Peace of Augsburg. Each state was to take the religion of its prince, but within those states, there was not necessarily religious tolerance. Citizens of other faiths could relocate to a more hospitable environment.

In France, from the 1550s, many attempts to reconcile Catholics and Protestants and to establish tolerance failed because the State was too weak to enforce them. It took the victory of prince Henry IV of France, who had converted into Protestantism, and his accession to the throne, to impose religious tolerance formalized in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. It would remain in force for over 80 years until its revocation in 1685 by Louis XIV of France. Intolerance remained the norm until Louis XVI, who signed the Edict of Versailles (1787), then the constitutional text of 24 December 1789, granting civilian rights to Protestants. The French Revolution then abolished state religion and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) guarantees freedom of religion, as long as religious activities do not infringe on public order in ways detrimental to society.

Early laws and legal guarantees for religious freedom Edit

Eastern Hungarian Kingdom (Principality of Transylvania) Edit

In 1558, the Transylvanian Diet's Edict of Torda declared free practice of both Catholicism and Lutheranism. Calvinism, however, was prohibited. Calvinism was included among the accepted religions in 1564. Ten years after the first law, in 1568, the same Diet, under the chairmanship of King of Hungary, and Prince of Transylvania John Sigismund Zápolya (John II.), [36] following the teaching of Ferenc Dávid, [37] the founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania, [38] extended the freedom to all religions, declaring that "It is not allowed to anybody to intimidate anybody with captivity or expelling for his religion". However, it was more than a religious tolerance it declared the equality of the religions, prohibiting all kinds of acts from authorities or from simple people, which could harm other groups or people because of their religious beliefs. The emergence in social hierarchy wasn't dependent on the religion of the person thus Transylvania had also Catholic and Protestant monarchs, who all respected the Edict of Torda. The lack of state religion was unique for centuries in Europe. Therefore, the Edict of Torda is considered as the first legal guarantee of religious freedom in Christian Europe. [39]

Act of Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience: His majesty, our Lord, in what manner he – together with his realm – legislated in the matter of religion at the previous Diets, in the same matter now, in this Diet, reaffirms that in every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve. Therefore none of the superintendents or others shall abuse the preachers, no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone, according to the previous statutes, and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment or by removal from his post for his teaching. For faith is the gift of God and this comes from hearing, which hearings is by the word of God.

Four religions (Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Unitarianism) were named as accepted religions (religo recepta), having their representatives in the Transylvanian Diet, while the other religions, like the Orthodoxs, Sabbatarians and Anabaptists were tolerated churches (religio tolerata), which meant that they had no power in the law making and no veto rights in the Diet, but they were not persecuted in any way. Thanks to the Edict of Torda, from the last decades of the 16th Century Transylvania was the only place in Europe, where so many religions could live together in harmony and without persecution. [41]

This religious freedom ended however for some of the religions of Transylvania in 1638. After this year the Sabbatarians begun to be persecuted, and forced to convert to one of the accepted Christian religions of Transylvania. [42]

Habsburg rule in Transylvania Edit

Also the Unitarians (despite of being one of the "accepted religions") started to be put under an ever-growing pressure, which culminated after the Habsburg conquest of Transylvania (1691), [43] Also after the Habsburg occupation, the new Austrian masters forced in the middle of the 18th century the Hutterite Anabaptists (who found a safe heaven in 1621 in Transylvania, after the persecution to which they were subjected in the Austrian provinces and Moravia) to convert to Catholicism or to migrate in another country, which finally the Anabaptists did, leaving Transylvania and Hungary for Wallachia, than from there to Russia, and finally in the United States. [44]

Netherlands Edit

In the Union of Utrecht (20 January 1579), personal freedom of religion was declared in the struggle between the Northern Netherlands and Spain. The Union of Utrecht was an important step in the establishment of the Dutch Republic (from 1581 to 1795). Under Calvinist leadership, the Netherlands became the most tolerant country in Europe. It granted asylum to persecuted religious minorities, such as the Huguenots, the Dissenters, and the Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal. [45] The establishment of a Jewish community in the Netherlands and New Amsterdam (present-day New York) during the Dutch Republic is an example of religious freedom. When New Amsterdam surrendered to the English in 1664, freedom of religion was guaranteed in the Articles of Capitulation. It benefitted also the Jews who had landed on Manhattan Island in 1654, fleeing Portuguese persecution in Brazil. During the 18th century, other Jewish communities were established at Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, and Richmond. [46]

Intolerance of dissident forms of Protestantism also continued, as evidenced by the exodus of the Pilgrims, who sought refuge, first in the Netherlands, and ultimately in America, founding Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, was involved in a case which had a profound effect upon future American laws and those of England. In a classic case of jury nullification, the jury refused to convict William Penn of preaching a Quaker sermon, which was illegal. Even though the jury was imprisoned for their acquittal, they stood by their decision and helped establish the freedom of religion. [47]

Poland Edit

The General Charter of Jewish Liberties known as the Statute of Kalisz was issued by the Duke of Greater Poland Boleslaus the Pious on 8 September 1264 in Kalisz. The statute served as the basis for the legal position of Jews in Poland and led to the creation of the Yiddish-speaking autonomous Jewish nation until 1795. The statute granted exclusive jurisdiction of Jewish courts over Jewish matters and established a separate tribunal for matters involving Christians and Jews. Additionally, it guaranteed personal liberties and safety for Jews including freedom of religion, travel, and trade. The statute was ratified by subsequent Polish Kings: Casimir III of Poland in 1334, Casimir IV of Poland in 1453 and Sigismund I of Poland in 1539. Poland freed Jews from direct royal authority, opening up enormous administrative and economic opportunities to them. [48]

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Edit

The right to worship freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the future Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth throughout the 15th and early 16th century, however, complete freedom of religion was officially recognized in 1573 during the Warsaw Confederation. Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth kept religious freedom laws during an era when religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of Europe. [49]

United States Edit

Most of the early colonies were generally not tolerant of dissident forms of worship, with Maryland being one of the exceptions. For example, Roger Williams found it necessary to found a new colony in Rhode Island to escape persecution in the theocratically dominated colony of Massachusetts. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were the most active of the New England persecutors of Quakers, and the persecuting spirit was shared by Plymouth Colony and the colonies along the Connecticut river. [50] In 1660, one of the most notable victims of the religious intolerance was English Quaker Mary Dyer, who was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts for repeatedly defying a Puritan law banning Quakers from the colony. [50] As one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs, the hanging of Dyer on the Boston gallows marked the beginning of the end of the Puritan theocracy and New England independence from English rule, and in 1661 King Charles II explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism. [51] Anti-Catholic sentiment appeared in New England with the first Pilgrim and Puritan settlers. [52] In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting any Jesuit Roman Catholic priests from entering territory under Puritan jurisdiction. [53] Any suspected person who could not clear himself was to be banished from the colony a second offense carried a death penalty. [54] The Pilgrims of New England held radical Protestant disapproval of Christmas. [55] Christmas observance was outlawed in Boston in 1659. [56] The ban by the Puritans was revoked in 1681 by an English appointed governor, however it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became common in the Boston region. [57]

Freedom of religion was first applied as a principle of government in the founding of the colony of Maryland, founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, in 1634. [58] Fifteen years later (1649), 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 Act allowed freedom of worship for all Trinitarian Christians in Maryland, but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. The Maryland Toleration Act was repealed during the Cromwellian Era with the assistance of Protestant assemblymen and a new law barring Catholics from openly practicing their religion was passed. [59] In 1657, the Catholic 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 [60] when, after Maryland's Protestant Revolution of 1689, freedom of religion was again rescinded. [58] [61] In addition, in 1704, an Act was passed "to prevent the growth of Popery in this Province", preventing Catholics from holding political office. [61] 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.

Rhode Island (1636), Connecticut (1636), New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (1682) – founded by Protestants Roger Williams, Thomas Hooker, and William Penn, respectively – combined the democratic form of government which had been developed by the Puritans and the Separatist Congregationalists in Massachusetts with religious freedom. [62] [63] [64] [65] These colonies became sanctuaries for persecuted religious minorities. Catholics and later on Jews also had full citizenship and free exercise of their religions. [66] [67] [68] Williams, Hooker, Penn, and their friends were firmly convinced that freedom of conscience was the will of God. Williams gave the most profound argument: As faith is the free work of the Holy Spirit, it cannot be forced on a person. Therefore, strict separation of church and state has to be kept. [69] Pennsylvania was the only colony that retained unlimited religious freedom until the foundation of the United States in 1776. It was the inseparable connection between democracy, religious freedom, and the other forms of freedom which became the political and legal basis of the new nation. In particular, Baptists and Presbyterians demanded the disestablishment of state churches – Anglican and Congregationalist – and the protection of religious freedom. [70]

Reiterating Maryland's and the other colonies' earlier colonial legislation, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed:

[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Those sentiments also found expression in the First Amendment of the national constitution, part of the United States' Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. ". The acknowledgement of religious freedom as the first right protected in the Bill of Rights points toward the American founders' understanding of the importance of religion to human, social, and political flourishing. The First Amendment makes clear that it sought to protect "the free exercise" of religion, or what might be called "free exercise equality." [71]

The United States formally considers religious freedom in its foreign relations. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom which investigates the records of over 200 other nations with respect to religious freedom, and makes recommendations to submit nations with egregious records to ongoing scrutiny and possible economic sanctions. Many human rights organizations have urged the United States to be still more vigorous in imposing sanctions on countries that do not permit or tolerate religious freedom.

Canada Edit

Freedom of religion in Canada is a constitutionally protected right, allowing believers the freedom to assemble and worship without limitation or interference. Canadian law goes further, requiring that private citizens and companies provide reasonable accommodation to those, for example, with strong religious beliefs. The Canadian Human Rights Act allows an exception to reasonable accommodation with respect to religious dress, such as a Sikh turban, when there is a bona fide occupational requirement, such as a workplace requiring a hard hat. [72] In 2017 the Santo Daime Church Céu do Montréal received religious exemption to use Ayahuasca as a sacrament in their rituals. [73]

International Edit

On 25 November 1981, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. This declaration recognizes freedom of religion as a fundamental human right in accordance with several other instruments of international law. [74]

However, the most substantial binding legal instruments that guarantee the right to freedom of religion that was passed by the international community is the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states in its Article 14: "States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. – States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child. – Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others." [75]

Theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs Edit

In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief." [76] The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views." Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert. Despite this, minority religions still are persecuted in many parts of the world. [77] [78]

Secular liberalism Edit

The French philosopher Voltaire noted in his book on English society, Letters on the English, that freedom of religion in a diverse society was deeply important to maintaining peace in that country. That it was also important in understanding why England at that time was more prosperous in comparison to the country's less religiously tolerant European neighbours.

If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government would very possibly become arbitrary if there were but two, the people would cut one another’s throats but as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace. [79]

Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations (using an argument first put forward by his friend and contemporary David Hume), states that in the long run it is in the best interests of society as a whole and the civil magistrate (government) in particular to allow people to freely choose their own religion, as it helps prevent civil unrest and reduces intolerance. So long as there are enough religions and/or religious sects operating freely in a society then they are all compelled to moderate their more controversial and violent teachings, so as to be more appealing to more people and so have an easier time attracting new converts. It is this free competition amongst religious sects for converts that ensures stability and tranquillity in the long run.

Smith also points out that laws that prevent religious freedom and seek to preserve the power and belief in a particular religion will, in the long run, only serve to weaken and corrupt that religion, as its leaders and preachers become complacent, disconnected and unpractised in their ability to seek and win over new converts: [80]

The interested and active zeal of religious teachers can be dangerous and troublesome only where there is either but one sect tolerated in the society, or where the whole of a large society is divided into two or three great sects the teachers of each acting by concert, and under a regular discipline and subordination. But that zeal must be altogether innocent, where the society is divided into two or three hundred, or, perhaps, into as many thousand small sects, of which no one could be considerable enough to disturb the public tranquillity. The teachers of each sect, seeing themselves surrounded on all sides with more adversaries than friends, would be obliged to learn that candour and moderation which are so seldom to be found among the teachers of those great sects. [81]

Hinduism Edit

Hinduism is one of the more broad-minded religions when it comes to religious freedom. [82] It respects the right of everyone to reach God in their own way. Hindus believe in different ways to preach attainment of God and religion as a philosophy and hence respect all religions as equal. One of the famous Hindu sayings about religion is: "Truth is one sages call it by different names." [82]

Judaism Edit

Judaism includes multiple streams, such as Orthodox, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Jewish Renewal and Humanistic Judaism. However, Judaism also exists in many forms as a civilization, possessing characteristics known as peoplehood, rather than strictly as a religion. [83] In the Torah, Jews are forbidden to practice idolatry and are commanded to root out pagan and idolatrous practices within their midst, including killing idolaters who sacrifice children to their gods, or engage in immoral activities. However, these laws are not adhered to anymore as Jews have usually lived among a multi-religious community.

After the conquest of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judea by the Roman Empire, a Jewish state did not exist until 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel. For over 1500 years Jewish people lived under pagan, Christian, Muslim, etc. rule. As such Jewish people in some of these states faced persecution. From the pogroms in Europe during the Middle Ages to the establishment of segregated Jewish ghettos during World War II. In the Middle East, Jews were categorised as dhimmi, non- Muslims permitted to live within a Muslim state. Even though given rights within a Muslim state, a dhimmi is still not equal to a Muslim within Muslim society.

Possibly because of this history of long term persecution, Jews in modernity have been among the most active proponents of religious freedom in the US and abroad and have founded and supported anti-hate institutions, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union. Jews are very active in supporting Muslim and other religious groups in the US against discrimination and hate crimes and most Jewish congregations throughout the US and many individual Jews participate in interfaith community projects and programs.

The State of Israel was established for the Jewish diaspora after World War II. While the Israel Declaration of Independence stresses religious freedom as a fundamental principle, in practice the current [ timeframe? ] government, dominated by the ultra-Orthodox segment of the population has instituted legal barriers for those who do not practice Orthodox Judaism as Jews. However, as a nation state, Israel is very open towards other religions and religious practices, including public Muslim call to prayer chants and Christian prayer bells ringing in Jerusalem. Israel has been evaluated in research by the Pew organization as having "high" government restrictions on religion. The government recognizes only Orthodox Judaism in certain matters of personal status, and marriages can only be performed by religious authorities. The government provides the greatest funding to Orthodox Judaism, even though adherents represent a minority of citizens. [84] Jewish women, including Anat Hoffman, have been arrested at the Western Wall for praying and singing while wearing religious garments the Orthodox feel should be reserved for men. Women of the Wall have organized to promote religious freedom at the Wall. [85] In November 2014, a group of 60 non-Orthodox rabbinical students were told they would not be allowed to pray in the Knesset synagogue because it is reserved for Orthodox. Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, said that he had submitted the request on behalf of the students and saw their shock when the request was denied. He noted: "paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel." MK Dov Lipman expressed the concern that many Knesset workers are unfamiliar with non-Orthodox and American practices and would view "an egalitarian service in the synagogue as an affront." [86] The non-Orthodox forms of Jewish practice function independently in Israel, except for these issues of praying at the Western Wall.

Christianity Edit

According to the Catholic Church in the Vatican II document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, "the human person has a right to religious freedom", which is described as "immunity from coercion in civil society". [87] This principle of religious freedom "leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion." [87] In addition, this right "is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right." [87]

Prior to this, Pope Pius IX had written a document called the Syllabus of Errors. The Syllabus was made up of phrases and paraphrases from earlier papal documents, along with index references to them, and presented as a list of "condemned propositions". It does not explain why each particular proposition is wrong, but it cites earlier documents to which the reader can refer for the Pope's reasons for saying each proposition is false. Among the statements included in the Syllabus are: "[It is an error to say that] Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true" (15) "[It is an error to say that] In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship" "[It is an error to say that] Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship". [88]

Some Orthodox Christians, especially those living in democratic countries, support religious freedom for all, as evidenced by the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many Protestant Christian churches, including some Baptists, Churches of Christ, Seventh-day Adventist Church and main line churches have a commitment to religious freedoms. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also affirms religious freedom. [89]

However others, such as African scholar Makau Mutua, have argued that Christian insistence on the propagation of their faith to native cultures as an element of religious freedom has resulted in a corresponding denial of religious freedom to native traditions and led to their destruction. As he states in the book produced by the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, "Imperial religions have necessarily violated individual conscience and the communal expressions of Africans and their communities by subverting African religions." [90] [91]

In their book Breaking India, Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan discussed the "US Protestant Church" funding activities in India, with the book arguing that the funds collected were being used not so much for the purposes indicated to sponsors, but for indoctrination and conversion activities. They suggest that India is the prime target of a huge enterprise – a "network" of organizations, individuals, and churches – that, they argue, seem intensely devoted to the task of creating a separatist identity, history, and even religion for the vulnerable sections of India. They suggest that this nexus of players includes not only church groups, government bodies, and related organizations, but also private think tanks and academics. [92]

Joel Spring has written about the Christianization of the Roman Empire:

Christianity added new impetus to the expansion of empire. Increasing the arrogance of the imperial project, Christians insisted that the Gospels and the Church were the only valid sources of religious beliefs. Imperialists could claim that they were both civilizing the world and spreading the true religion. By the 5th century, Christianity was thought of as co-extensive with the Imperium romanum. This meant that to be human, as opposed to being a natural slave, was to be "civilized" and Christian. Historian Anthony Pagden argues, "just as the civitas had now become coterminous with Christianity, so to be human – to be, that is, one who was 'civil', and who was able to interpret correctly the law of nature – one had now also to be Christian." After the fifteenth century, most Western colonialists rationalized the spread of empire with the belief that they were saving a barbaric and pagan world by spreading Christian civilization. [93]

Islam Edit

Conversion to Islam is simple, but Muslims are forbidden to convert from Islam to another religion. Certain Muslim-majority countries are known for their restrictions on religious freedom, highly favoring Muslim citizens over non-Muslim citizens. Other countries [ who? ] having the same restrictive laws tend to be more liberal when imposing them. Even other Muslim-majority countries are secular and thus do not regulate religious belief. [94] [ failed verification ]

Islamic theologians [ who? ] quote the Qur'an ("There is no compulsion in religion" [2:256] and "Say: O you who reject faith, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. To you be your religion, and to me be mine" [109:1–6] , i.e., Sura Al-Kafirun) to show scriptural support for religious freedom.

Quran 2:190–194, referring to the war against Pagans during the Battle of Badr in Medina, indicates that Muslims are only allowed to fight against those who intend to harm them (right of self-defense) and that if their enemies surrender, they must also stop because God does not like those who transgress limits.

In Bukhari:V9 N316, Jabir ibn 'Abdullah narrated that a Bedouin accepted Islam and then when he got a fever he demanded that Muhammad to cancel his pledge (allow him to renounce Islam). Muhammad refused to do so. The Bedouin man repeated his demand once, but Muhammad once again refused. Then, he (the Bedouin) left Medina. Muhammad said, "Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clear its good." In this narration, there was no evidence demonstrating that Muhammad ordered the execution of the Bedouin for wanting to renounce Islam.

In addition, Quran 5:3, which is believed to be God's final revelation to Muhammad, states that Muslims are to fear God and not those who reject Islam, and Quran 53:38–39 states that one is accountable only for one's own actions. Therefore, it postulates that in Islam, in the matters of practising a religion, it does not relate to a worldly punishment, but rather these actions are accountable to God in the afterlife. Thus, this supports the argument against the execution of apostates in Islam. [95]

However, on the other hand, some Muslims support the practice of executing apostates who leave Islam, as in Bukhari:V4 B52 N260 "The Prophet said, 'If a Muslim discards his religion and separates from the main body of Muslims, kill him." [96] However, many Muslims believe that this hadith was written in the context of war and therefore Prophet Muhammad stipulated that whichever Muslim rejects his religion, leaves from the main body of Muslims and betrays the Muslims in war should be executed as a punishment for his treachery towards the community of Muslims. So many Muslims believe that this hadith talks about the punishment of Treason. [ citation needed ]

In Iran, the constitution recognizes four religions whose status is formally protected: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. [97] The constitution, however, also set the groundwork for the institutionalized persecution of Baháʼís, [98] who have been subjected to arrests, beatings, executions, confiscation and destruction of property, and the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education. [97] There is no freedom of conscience in Iran, as converting from Islam to any other religion is forbidden.

In Egypt, a 16 December 2006 judgment of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt created a clear demarcation between recognized religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – and all other religious beliefs [99] [100] no other religious affiliation is officially admissible. [101] The ruling leaves members of other religious communities, including Baháʼís, without the ability to obtain the necessary government documents to have rights in their country, essentially denying them of all rights of citizenship. [101] They cannot obtain ID cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, and passports they also cannot be employed, educated, treated in public hospitals or vote, among other things. [101] See Egyptian identification card controversy.

Changing religion Edit

Among the most contentious areas of religious freedom is the right of an individual to change or abandon his or her own religion (apostasy), and the right to evangelize individuals seeking to convince others to make such a change.

Other debates have centered around restricting certain kinds of missionary activity by religions. Many Islamic states, and others such as China, severely restrict missionary activities of other religions. Greece, among European countries, has generally looked unfavorably on missionary activities of denominations others than the majority church and proselytizing is constitutionally prohibited. [102]

A different kind of critique of the freedom to propagate religion has come from non-Abrahamic traditions such as the African and Indian. African scholar Makau Mutua criticizes religious evangelism on the ground of cultural annihilation by what he calls "proselytizing universalist faiths" (Chapter 28: Proselytism and Cultural Integrity, p. 652):

. the (human) rights regime incorrectly assumes a level playing field by requiring that African religions compete in the marketplace of ideas. The rights corpus not only forcibly imposes on African religions the obligation to compete – a task for which as nonproselytizing, noncompetitive creeds they are not historically fashioned – but also protects the evangelizing religions in their march towards universalization . it seems inconceivable that the human rights regime would have intended to protect the right of certain religions to destroy others. [103]

Some Indian scholars [104] have similarly argued that the right to propagate religion is not culturally or religiously neutral.

In Sri Lanka, there have been debates regarding a bill on religious freedom that seeks to protect indigenous religious traditions from certain kinds of missionary activities. Debates have also occurred in various states of India regarding similar laws, particularly those that restrict conversions using force, fraud or allurement.

In 2008, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a Christian human rights non-governmental organisation which specializes in religious freedom, launched an in-depth report on the human rights abuses faced by individuals who leave Islam for another religion. The report is the product of a year long research project in six countries. It calls on Muslim nations, the international community, the UN and the international media to resolutely address the serious violations of human rights suffered by apostates. [105]

Apostasy in Islam Edit

In Islam, apostasy is called "ridda" ("turning back") and is considered to be a profound insult to God. A person born of Muslim parents that rejects Islam is called a "murtad fitri" (natural apostate), and a person that converted to Islam and later rejects the religion is called a "murtad milli" (apostate from the community). [106]

In Islamic law (Sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars. [107]

Ideally, the one performing the execution of an apostate must be an imam. [107] At the same time, all schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that any Muslim can kill an apostate without punishment. [108]

However, while almost all scholars agree about the punishment, many disagree on the allowable time to retract the apostasy. [109] S. A. Rahman, a former Chief Justice of Pakistan, argues that there is no indication of the death penalty for apostasy in the Qur'an. [110]

Children's rights Edit

The law in Germany includes the concept of "religious maturity" (Religiöse Mündigkeit) with a minimum age for minors to follow their own religious beliefs even if their parents don't share those or don't approve. Children 14 and older have the unrestricted right to enter or exit any religious community. Children 12 and older cannot be compelled to change to a different belief. Children 10 and older have to be heard before their parents change their religious upbringing to a different belief. [111] There are similar laws in Austria [112] and in Switzerland. [113]

Secular law Edit

Religious practice may also conflict with secular law, creating debates on religious freedom. For instance, even though polygamy is permitted in Islam, it is prohibited in secular law in many countries. This raises the question of whether prohibiting the practice infringes on the beliefs of certain Muslims. The US and India, both constitutionally secular nations, have taken two views of this. In India, polygamy is permitted, but only for Muslims, under Muslim Personal Law. In the US, polygamy is prohibited for all. This was a major source of conflict between the early LDS Church and the United States until the Church amended its position on practicing polygamy.

Similar issues have also arisen in the context of the religious use of psychedelic substances by Native American tribes in the United States, such as by the Native American Church.

In 1955, Chief Justice of California Roger J. Traynor neatly summarized the American position on how freedom of religion cannot imply freedom from law: "Although freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe are absolute, the freedom to act is not." [114] But with respect to the religious use of animals within secular law and those acts, the US Supreme Court decision in the case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah in 1993 upheld the right of Santeria adherents to practice ritual animal sacrifice, with Justice Anthony Kennedy stating in the decision: "religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection" (quoted by Justice Kennedy from the opinion by Justice Burger in Thomas v. Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Division 450 U.S. 707 (1981)). [115]

In 1962, the case of Engel v. Vitale went to court over the violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment resulting from a mandatory nondenominational prayer in New York public schools. The Supreme Court ruled in opposition to the state. [116]

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Abington School District v. Schempp. Edward Schempp sued the school district in Abington over the Pennsylvania law which required students to hear and sometimes read portions of the bible for their daily education. The court ruled in favor of Schempp and the Pennsylvania law was overturned. [117]

In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Epperson v. Arkansas. Susan Epperson, a high school teacher in Arkansas sued over a violation of religious freedom. The state had a law banning the teaching of evolution and the school Epperson worked for had provided curriculum which contained evolutionary theory. Epperson had to choose between violating the law or losing her job. The Supreme Court ruled to overturn the Arkansas law because it was unconstitutional. [118]

As a legal form of discrimination Edit

Leaders of the Christian right in the United States, United Kingdom, and other nations frame their opposition to LGBT rights and reproductive freedom as a defence of religious liberty. [119]

In court cases, religious adherents have argued that they need exemptions from laws requiring equal treatment of LGBT people to avoid being complicit in "the sinful behaviour" of LGBT people. [119] Moreover, other Christians argue that LGBT rights must be entirely removed from law to preserve the religious liberty of conservative Christians. [120]

In 2015, Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, refused to abide by the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalising same-sex marriage in the United States. When she refused to issue marriage licences, she became embroiled in the Miller v. Davis lawsuit. Her actions caused attorney and author Roberta Kaplan to claim that "Kim Davis is the clearest example of someone who wants to use a religious liberty argument to discriminate." [121]

Permitting discrimination because of freedom of religion is an example of the paradox of tolerance. [119]

27 October is International Religious Freedom Day, in commemoration of the execution of the Boston martyrs, a group of Quakers executed by the Puritans on Boston Common for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1659–1661. [122] The US proclaimed 16 January Religious Freedom Day. [123]

In its 2011 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom designated fourteen nations as "countries of particular concern". The commission chairman commented that these are nations whose conduct marks them as the world's worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers. The fourteen nations designated were Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Other nations on the commission's watchlist include Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela. [124]

There are concerns about the restrictions on public religious dress in some European countries (including the Hijab, Kippah, and Christian cross). [125] [126] Article 18 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights limits restrictions on freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs to those necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. [127] Freedom of religion as a legal concept is related to, but not identical with, religious toleration, separation of church and state, or secular state (laïcité).

Social hostilities and government restrictions Edit

The Pew Research Center has performed studies on international religious freedom between 2009 and 2015, compiling global data from 16 governmental and non-governmental organizations–including the United Nations, the United States State Department, and Human Rights Watch–and representing over 99.5 percent of the world's population. [128] [129] In 2009, nearly 70 percent of the world's population lived in countries classified as having heavy restrictions on freedom of religion. [128] [129] This concerns restrictions on religion originating from government prohibitions on free speech and religious expression as well as social hostilities undertaken by private individuals, organisations and social groups. Social hostilities were classified by the level of communal violence and religion-related terrorism.

While most countries provided for the protection of religious freedom in their constitutions or laws, only a quarter of those countries were found to fully respect these legal rights in practice. In 75 countries governments limit the efforts of religious groups to proselytise and in 178 countries religious groups must register with the government. In 2013, Pew classified 30% of countries as having restrictions that tend to target religious minorities, and 61% of countries have social hostilities that tend to target religious minorities. [130]

The countries in North and South America reportedly had some of the lowest levels of government and social restrictions on religion, while The Middle East and North Africa were the regions with the highest. Saudi Arabia and Iran were the countries that top the list of countries with the overall highest levels of restriction on religion. Topping the Pew government restrictions index were Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Egypt, Burma, Maldives, Eritrea, Malaysia and Brunei.

Of the world's 25 most populous countries, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan had the most restrictions, while Brazil, Japan, Italy, South Africa, the UK, and the US had some of the lowest levels, as measured by Pew.

Vietnam and China were classified as having high government restrictions on religion but were in the moderate or low range when it came to social hostilities. Nigeria, Bangladesh and India were high in social hostilities but moderate in terms of government actions.

Restrictions on religion across the world increased between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center. Restrictions in each of the five major regions of the world increased—including in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions where overall restrictions previously had been declining. In 2010, Egypt, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Russia, and Yemen were added to the "very high" category of social hostilities. [131] The five highest social hostility scores were for Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Bangladesh. [132] In 2015, Pew published that social hostilities declined in 2013, but the harassment of Jews increased. [130]

In the Palestinian territories, Palestinians face tight restrictions on practicing the freedom of religion due to the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In a report published by the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, eyewitnesses reported systematic practices aiming at preventing young men and women from performing their prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. These practices include military orders issued by the Israeli Defense Army commander against specific Palestinians who have an effective role in Jerusalem, interrogating young men, and creating a secret blacklist of people who are prevented from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque. [133]

What Should the Test Be? A Close-Reading Activity on the Free Exercise Clause

The Supreme Court in the Sherbert and Smith cases used two different tests to decide free exercise clause cases. In this activity, students will apply the tests to the 1972 case of Wisconsin v. Yoder.

That case involved the Amish, separatist Christians who avoid most modern technology in favor of traditional communal farming. In the Yoder case, Amish parents refused to enroll their children in public high school, arguing that attending was “contrary to the Amish way of life.” These parents were charged and fined for violating the state’s compulsory education laws. The U.S. Supreme Court had to decide the following issue: Do a state’s compulsory education laws violate the First Amendment rights of parents who refuse to send their children to school for sincerely held religious reasons?

For this activity, students should first form pairs and do a close reading of the facts of Wisconsin v. Yoder. Then each student will write a short essay, answering text-dependent questions.

1. Read the facts of the case below, taken directly from the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Circle words or phrases that you do not understand or need to look up. After reading, discuss the main points with a partner and try to reach agreement on what the case is about. Read aloud the words or phrases that you do not understand and see if your partner can help explain them to you.

2. Re-read the excerpts, this time drawing a question mark in the margin next to any paragraph or sentence that makes you have a question about the text. Write down your questions on a separate sheet of paper if the margin does not give you enough room.

3. After re-reading, share your questions about the text with your partner. Determine if your partner can help you answer them, or if you need to look up more information.

4. Writing Activity: Using the text and the main article, answer the following questions, each with at least one well-developed paragraph, citing relevant text to support your answers:

(a) How should the Yoder case be decided under the compelling interest test of Sherbert v. Verner?

(b) How should it be decided under the “general applicability” test of Employment Division v. Smith?

(c) How do you think the case should be decided? Why?

Facts (as stated in the majority opinion of Wisconsin v. Yoder)

Old Order Amish communities today are characterized by a fundamental belief that salvation requires life in a church community separate and apart from the world and worldly influence. This concept of life aloof from the world and its values is central to their faith.

A related feature of Old Order Amish communities is their devotion to a life in harmony with nature and the soil, as exemplified by the simple life of the early Christian era that continued in America during much of our early national life. Amish beliefs require members of the community to make their living by farming or closely related activities. Broadly speaking, the Old Order Amish religion pervades and determines the entire mode of life of its adherents. . . .

Amish objection to formal education beyond the eighth grade is firmly grounded in these central religious concepts. They object to the high school, and higher education generally, because the values they teach are in marked variance with Amish values and the Amish way of life they view secondary school education as an impermissible exposure of their children to a “worldly” influence in conflict with their beliefs. The high school tends to emphasize intellectual and scientific accomplishments, self-distinction, competitiveness, worldly success, and social life with other students. Amish society emphasizes informal “learning through doing” a life of “goodness,” rather than a life of intellect wisdom, rather than technical knowledge community welfare, rather than competition and separation from, rather than integration with, contemporary worldly society.

Formal high school education beyond the eighth grade is contrary to Amish beliefs not only because it places Amish children in an environment hostile to Amish beliefs, with increasing emphasis on competition in class work and sports and with pressure to conform to the styles, manners, and ways of the peer group, but also because it takes them away from their community, physically and emotionally, during the crucial and formative adolescent period of life. . . . In short, high school attendance with teachers who are not of the Amish faith — and may even be hostile to it — interposes a serious barrier to the integration of the Amish child into the Amish religious community. Dr. John Hostetler, one of the experts on Amish society, testified that the modern high school is not equipped, in curriculum or social environment, to impart the values promoted by Amish society.

Religious Freedom and the Military

Many argue against our stance on the basis that somehow our nation and our governing document, the Constitution, were founded on Christian principles. Because each member of our armed forces takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution, it’s important to understand its origin with respect to religion. Our founding fathers set up a government based on democratic principles, not religious principles. Our Constitution is secular. There is no mention of Christianity or any other religion.

There are however, two references to religion and both are exclusionary. Clause three article six in the body of the Constitution itself states very clearly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” The other reference is in the First Amendment that states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

It is important to note several things,

#1. The presidential oath of office, the only oath specified in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase “So help me, God” or show any requirement to swear on a bible.
#2. The pledge of allegiance written in 1892 did not contain, “under god.” until it was added by Congress in 1954.
#3. Most significantly the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli, negotiated under President Washington, unanimously approved by the Senate and signed by President Adams, declares, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

The founding fathers, many of who were religious gentlemen, created a secular government for very specific reasons.

#1. They were very conscious of the pitfalls the church-state alliances had fostered in Europe, the reasons for many to depart and forge a new path in the new world.
#2. They looked back to our early American colonial period where some colonies officially established churches and taxed all citizens to support them regardless of whether they were members of the church or not.

Among the many things that make this country unique are the liberties guaranteed in our Constitution, including religious freedom. Because we live in this pluralistic society set up by our founders, people of all faiths or no faith are welcome and we as Americans enjoy more religious freedom than any other people in the world. Simply stated, our founders understood two very simple and important things:

#1. That the separation of church and state would allow all faiths to flourish.
#2. That in matters of religion our government would be set up to remain neutral.

All Americans have the right to worship as they see fit within the bounds of the law, but no one has the right to use the government, military, or power of the state to endorse or promote his or her religious beliefs or demand help in spreading sectarian messages. Given that, it is imperative that when military professionals take the oath to support and defend the Constitution, these democratic principles are what they are promising to protect. On September 1, 2011 the Chief of Staff, General Norton A. Schwartz sent a memorandum for all commanders the subject was “Maintaining Government Neutrality Regarding Religion.” In this memo he states, ” Leaders at all levels must balance Constitutional protections for an individuals free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and its prohibition against governmental establishment of religion”. Further ” They must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.” To do so, he states, ” Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt there impartially and objectivity. The potential result is a degradation of the unit’s morale, good order, and discipline. Thus the flagrant proselytizing of subordinates by superiors, non voluntary evangelizing of members by chaplains and public prayer in official, mandatory settings, outside of voluntary worship, are at the root of what the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is fighting against.

All branches of the United States military are afforded the same rights to religious freedom, as are American civilians. However, members of the Armed Forces willingly surrender on a temporary basis certain free exercise rights when it impinges on military discipline and the successful completion of a military objective. This guarantee of religious freedom is codified for the Armed Forces in Title 10, United States Code (USC), sections 3073, 3547, 5142, and 8067. Free exercise of religious freedom for military personnel is further detailed in Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 1300.17, “Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services,” which describes the commander’s responsibility to provide for religious accommodation.

Codes and directives notwithstanding, the free exercise of religious freedom in the military has, by and large, followed the mores of American society in general. That is, as the understanding of free exercise expanded outside the military, so did it expand within the U.S. Armed Forces. This history of the growing embrace of religious pluralism can perhaps best be seen in the expansion of the Chaplaincy, whose role it is to provide for the free expression of religious belief by members of the Armed Forces.

For example, not until the war with Mexico in 1846 were Roman Catholics incorporated into the chaplaincy corps. Until then, only Protestants served as chaplains, a situation that put the United States at a propaganda disadvantage when fighting Catholic Mexico. In 1862, “Christian” was stricken from regulations governing the appointment of chaplains by recognized religious denominations to allow for the appointment of Jewish chaplains. This change was brought about as a result of a request made to President Abraham Lincoln by the Board of Delegates of American Israelites.

During World War II, Greek Orthodox chaplains were authorized to minister to members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and in 1987, the Department of Defense registered the Buddhist Churches of America as an ecclesiastical endorsing agency, thus opening the door for Buddhist chaplains. In 1993, the first Muslim chaplain was added by the Army – yet another sign of America’s growing religious diversity and the recognition that it is the Armed Forces’ Constitutional responsibility to meet the free expression needs of those in its ranks who hold minority religious views.

Religious freedom takes on an additional importance in the current international environment, where religious motivations are an increasing rationale for waging conflict. At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, it is imperative upon America to show by example that religious pluralism is a viable and preferred option. Any sign of hypocrisy in Unites States policy, official or otherwise, toward the free exercise of religion within the military makes it more difficult to convince others to follow our nation’s chosen path.

MRFF’s role is to ensure that our government does indeed adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Constitution that it leads by example. The next chapter in the never-ending struggle to expand religious freedom in the military is being written, and MRFF is playing a critical part in the effort. A watchdog’s role requires constant vigilance.

Mongol Empire and Religious Freedom

The Mongol people were Tengerians, which is a shamanist belief system. Tengerism means to honor the spirits. Shamanism is a form of animism, which holds that everything has a spiritual essence, including rocks, water and plants—everything. Humans are living spiritual creatures in a world of other spirits/forces/gods, with the Greatest Spirits being Koke Mongke Tengri, the Eternal Blue Heaven, and Mother Earth. These spirits of the sky, land, water, plants, rocks, ancestors and animals are honored. Tengerism has three main tenets: to take care of and honor the spirits, to have personal responsibility and to keep harmony among all elements of the environment, the community, and oneself. When trouble or illness came, it meant things were out of balance and a holy man or woman, a shaman, was called to rectify the situation.

Genghis, the man, was interested in all religions. In fact, many Mongols were shamanists at the same time they practiced other religions. Genghis’ sons married Nestorian Christian women, for example, although they also held shamanist beliefs. As the Mongols swiftly began conquering the lands around them, Genghis and his advisors decided on religious tolerance as a policy. Rather than antagonize conquered peoples by suppressing their religion, the Mongols exempted religious leaders from taxation and allowed free practice of religion whether it be Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, Daoism or Islam. This policy ensured an easier governance of conquered territories.

Genghis Khan and his descendants employed Buddhists and Muslims in their administration of the empire. Genghis even had close advisors who held to other religions. To the Mongols, then, religious tolerance wasn’t only an imperial policy, it was the way they lived. Mongol leaders occasionally invited religious leaders to come and debate each other as a way of exploring and learning about the various religions under their rule. When Ogedai built the Mongol’s capital city Karakorum, he allowed religious leaders to build mosques, churches, lamaseries and temples for their worshippers.

At its height, the Mongol Empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and incorporated many nations and religions. The governance of this huge area would not have been possible without the Mongols’ policy of religious tolerance. The Great Khans and minor khans all kept this policy, even if they themselves converted to one religion or another. Gazan, khan of the Ilkhanate division in Iran, for example, converted to Islam in 1295. Kublai Khan practiced Buddhism, but allowed all peoples he ruled to practice their own religion. Religious tolerance is one of the positive legacies of the Mongol Empire, which was rare then as it is today.

Mormon Beliefs

  • Mormons consider themselves Christians, but many Christians don’t recognize Mormonism as an official denomination.
  • Mormons believe in the crucifixion, resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ. Followers claim that God sent more prophets after Jesus’s death. They say that the original church has been restored in modern times.
  • Mormons embrace four different texts: The Christian Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
  • According to the LDS church, Adam and Eve lived in Daviess County, Missouri after being driven from the Garden of Eden.
  • There are three levels of heaven�lestial, terrestrial and telestial—in Mormonism. Only those in the celestial kingdom will live in God’s presence.
  • Followers don’t recognize the Christian concept of the trinity (God existing in three persons). Instead, they believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three separate gods.
  • The LDS church considers Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism, a prophet.
  • Mormons follow a strict healthy lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to consume alcohol, tobacco, coffee or tea.
  • Family life, good deeds, respect for authority and missionary work are important values in Mormonism.
  • Mormons practice clothing rituals that include wearing special undergarments that have religious significance. Known as the “temple garment,” the attire is worn by adult members who make sacred promises to God.
  • Not all Mormon churches accept the label "Mormon," because the term has at times been used in a derogatory manner, and it does not allow for the variety of beliefs that exist among churches that follow the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith.

The Secret Religion of the Slaves

BY THE EVE OF THE CIVIL WAR, Christianity had pervaded the slave community. Not all slaves were Christian, nor were all those who accepted Christianity members of a church, but the doctrines, symbols, and vision of life preached by Christianity were familiar to most.

The religion of the slaves was both visible and invisible, formally organized and spontaneously adapted. Regular Sunday worship in the local church was paralleled by illicit, or at least informal, prayer meetings on weeknights in the slave cabins. Preachers licensed by the church and hired by the master were supplemented by slave preachers licensed only by the spirit. Texts from the Bible, which most slaves could not read, were explicated by verses from the spirituals. Slaves forbidden by masters to attend church or, in some cases, even to pray, risked floggings to attend secret gatherings to worship God.

His own experience of the “invisible institution” was recalled by former slave Wash Wilson:

Master’s Preachin’, Real Preachin’

Slaves frequently were moved to hold their own religious meetings out of disgust for the vitiated gospel preached by their masters’ preachers. Lucretia Alexander explained what slaves did when they grew tired of the white folks’ preacher: “The preacher came and . . . he’d just say, ‘Serve your masters. Don’t steal your master’s turkey. Don’t steal your master’s chickens. Don’t steal your master’s hawgs. Don’t steal your master’s meat. Do whatsomever your master tells you to do.’ Same old thing all the time. . . . Sometimes they would . . . want a real meetin’ with some real preachin’. . . . They used to sing their songs in a whisper and pray in a whisper.”

Slaves faced severe punishment if caught attending secret prayer meetings. Moses Grandy reported that his brother-in-law Isaac, a slave preacher, “was flogged, and his back pickled” for preaching at a clandestine service in the woods. His listeners were flogged and “forced to tell who else was there.”

Slaves devised several techniques to avoid detection of their meetings. One practice was to meet in secluded places—woods, gullies, ravines, and thickets (aptly called “hush harbors”). Kalvin Woods remembered preaching to other slaves and singing and praying while huddled behind quilts and rags, which had been thoroughly wetted “to keep the sound of their voices from penetrating the air” and then hung up “in the form of a little room,” or tabernacle.

On one Louisiana plantation, when “the slaves would steal away into the woods at night and hold services,” they “would form a circle on their knees around the speaker who would also be on his knees. He would bend forward and speak into or over a vessel of water to drown the sound. If anyone became animated and cried out, the others would quickly stop the noise by placing their hands over the offender’s mouth.”

A description of a secret prayer meeting was recorded by Peter Randolph, who was a slave in Prince George County, Virginia, until he was freed in 1847: “The slave forgets all his sufferings, except to remind others of the trials during the past week, exclaiming: ‘Thank God, I shall not live here always!’ Then they pass from one to another, shaking hands, and bidding each other farewell. . . . As they separate, they sing a parting hymn of praise.”

Two Extremes

Many slaveholders granted their slaves permission to attend church, and some openly encouraged religious meetings among the slaves. Baptisms, marriages, and funerals were allowed to slaves on some plantations with whites observing and occasionally participating. Annual revival meetings were social occasions for blacks as well as for whites. Masters were known to enjoy the singing, praying, and preaching of their slaves. Nevertheless, at the core of the slaves’ religion was a private place. For no matter how religious the master might be, the slave knew that the master’s religion did not countenance prayers for his slaves’ freedom in this world.

The religious format varied from plantation to plantation for the slaves. Former slave John Brown depicted two extremes: “Sunday was a great day around the plantation. The fields was forgotten, the light chores was hurried through, and everybody got ready for the church meeting. It was out of the doors, in the yard. . . . Master John’s wife would start the meeting with a prayer and then would come the singing—the old timey songs. But the white folks on the next plantation would lick their slaves for trying to do like we did. No praying there, and no singing.”

Some masters did not allow their slaves to go to church and ridiculed the notion of religion for slaves because they refused to believe that Negroes had souls. Others forbade their slaves to attend church because, as an ex-slave explained, “White folks ’fraid the niggers git to thinkin’ they was free, if they had churches ’n things.”

Boisterous Baptisms

Accompanied by song, shouting, and ecstatic behavior, baptism—especially for Baptists—was perhaps the most dramatic ritual in the slave’s religious life. “De biggest meetin’ house crowds was when dey had baptizing’,” noted a former Georgia slave. “Dey dammed up de crick on Sadday so as it would be deep enough on Sunday. . . . At dem baptizin’s dere was all sorts of shouting and dey would sing ‘Roll, Jordan, Roll, De Livin’ Waters,’ and ‘Lord, I’se Comin’ Home.’ ”

Dressed in white robes and attended by the “brothers and sisters,” the candidates proceeded “amidst singing and praises” to the local pond or creek, symbol of the river Jordan, where, according to Baptist practice, each was “ducked” by the preacher. Sometimes the newly regenerate came up from the baptismal waters shouting for joy at being made new in the Lord.

Recollecting the baptism of his mother, Isaiah Jeffries has left a description which conveys something of the excitement and the sense of new beginning which “baptizings” brought to many slaves: “When I to be a big boy, my Ma got religion at de Camp meeting at El-Bethel. She shouted and sung fer three days, going all over de plantation and de neighboring ones, inviting her friends to come to see her baptized and shouting and praying fer dem. She went around to all de people dat she had done wrong and begged dere forgiveness. She sent fer dem dat had wronged her, and told dem dat she was born again and a new woman, and dat she would forgive dem. She wanted everybody dat was not saved to go up wid her. . . . My Ma took me wid her to see her baptized, and I was so happy dat I sung and shouted wid her. All de niggers joined in singing.”

Slave Preachers

Presiding over slave baptisms, funerals, and weddings was the slave preacher, leader of the slaves’ religious life and an influential figure in the slave community. Usually illiterate, the slave preacher often had native wit and unusual eloquence.

Carefully watched and viewed with suspicion, the preacher had to straddle the conflict between the demands of conscience and the orders of the masters. Anderson Edwards reflected on the difficulty he experienced as a slave preacher in Texas: “I been preachin’ the gospel and farmin’ since slavery time. . . . When I starts preachin’ I couldn’t read or write and had to preach what massa told me and he say tell them niggers iffen they obeys the massa they goes to Heaven but I knowed there’s something better for them, but daren’t tell them kept on the sly. That I done lots. I tell ’em iffen they keeps prayin’ the Lord will set ’em free.”

By comparison with other slaves, some preachers were privileged characters. One former slave from Alabama remarked that “Nigger preachers in dem times wuz mighty-nigh free.” As long as he didn’t interfere with other slaves’ work, he [the slave preacher] was allowed to hold services whenever he wished, and frequently he traveled to neighboring places to conduct prayer meetings. It was from the preacher, this relatively mobile and privileged slave, that the rest “first heard of the Civil War.” During the war he offered whispered prayers for the success of the Union Army.

“What wonderful preachers these blacks are!” exclaimed one correspondent from Georgia to the editor of the American Missionary: “I listened to a remarkable sermon or talk a few evenings since. The preacher spoke of the need of atonement for sin. ‘Bullocks c’dn’t do it, heifers c’dn’t do it, de blood of doves c’dn’t do it—but up in heaven, for thousan and thousan of years, the Son was saying to the Father, “Put up a soul, put up a soul. Prepare me a body, an I will go an meet Justice on Calvary’s brow!” ’ He was so dramatic. In describing the crucifixion he said: ‘I see the sun when she turned herself black. I see the stars a fallin from the sky, and them old Herods coming out of their graves and goin about the city, an they knew ’twas the Lord of Glory.’ ”

Were the slave preachers a force for accommodation to the status quo or a force for the exercise of slave autonomy? On the one hand, the slave preacher was criticized by former slaves as the “mouthpiece of the masters.” On the other hand, some slave preachers preached and spoke of freedom in secret.

The weight of slave testimony suggests that the slaves knew and understood the restrictions under which the slave preacher labored, and that they accepted his authority not because it came from the master but because it came from God. They respected him because he was the messenger of the gospel, one who preached the word of God with power and authority, indeed with a power which sometimes humbled white folk and frequently uplifted slaves.

For a black man and a slave to stand and preach with eloquence, skill, and wisdom was in itself a sign of ability and talent which slavery’s restrictiveness could frustrate but never completely stifle.


Unable to read the Bible for themselves and skeptical of their masters’ interpretation of it, most slaves learned the message of the Christian gospel and translated it into songs in terms of their own experience. As John Dixon Long observed, “Many of them could state the cardinal doctrines of the gospel in the language of song.” It was in the spirituals, above all, that the characters, themes, and lessons of the Bible became dramatically real and took on special meaning for the slaves.

Drawing from the Bible, Protestant hymns, sermons, and African styles of singing and dancing, the slaves fashioned a religious music which expressed their faith in “moving, immediate, colloquial, and, often, magnificently dramatic terms.” Spirituals are too often seen simply as words and notes printed on a page. What must be recognized is that they emerged as communal songs, heard, felt, sung and often danced with hand-clapping, foot-stamping, headshaking excitement.


In 1901 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote a classic essay, “Faith of the Fathers,” in which he distinguished the three characteristics of the slaves’ religion as being the preacher, the music, and the frenzy or shouting. He might well have added a fourth characteristic, the conversion experience.

The experience of conversion was essential in the religious life of the slaves. For the only path to salvation lay through that “lonesome valley” wherein the “seekers” underwent conversion, an experience which they treasured as one of the peak moments in their lives.

The typical conversion experience was preceded by a period of anxiety over one’s salvation which lasted for days or even weeks. Josiah Henson, at the age of 18, was struck by the words of a sermon he heard, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, tasted death for every man for the high, for the low, for the rich, for the poor, the bond, the free, the negro in his chains, the man in gold and diamonds.” Henson recalled, “I stood and heard it. It touched my heart and I cried out: ‘I wonder if Jesus Christ died for me.’ ”

Of his conversion George Liele wrote:

At the center of the evangelical Protestant tradition, the tradition which slaves increasingly made their own, stood the experience of conversion.

Other Beliefs

Some slaves rejected Christianity and preserved their traditional African beliefs or their belief in Islam. Other slaves accepted Christianity of a different type—Catholicism. Relatively few slaves, mainly concentrated in southern Louisiana and Maryland, were Roman Catholics. According to a generous estimate, the number of black Catholics, free and slave, at the time of emancipation was one hundred thousand [out of approximately four million]. The predominant religious tradition, then, among the slaves and their descendants in the United States was evangelical Protestantism.

Comin’ into Canaan

Slaves believed that God had acted, was acting, and would continue to act within human history and within their own particular history as a peculiar people, just as long ago he had acted on behalf of another chosen people, biblical Israel. Moreover, slave religion had a this-worldly impact, not only in leading some slaves to acts of external rebellion, but also in helping slaves to assert and maintain a sense of personal value—even of ultimate worth. That some slaves maintained their identity as persons, despite a system bent on reducing them to a subhuman level, was certainly due in part to their religious life. CH

By Albert J. Raboteau

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #33 in 1992]

Dr. Albert J. Raboteau is Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion and chairman of the religion department at Princeton University. He is author of Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South (Oxford, 1978), from which this article is excerpted by permission.

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Religious Disqualification.

The Supreme Court has recog-nized that the Free Exercise Clause “protect[s] religious observers against unequal treatment” and subjects laws that target the religious for “special disability” based on their “religious status” to strict scrutiny.366 For example, in McDaniel v. Paty, the Court struck down a Tennessee law barring “[ministers] of the Gospel, or [priests] of any denomination whatever” from serving as a delegate to a state constitutional convention.367 While the Court splintered with respect to its rationale, at least seven Justices agreed that the law violated the Free Exercise Clause by unconstitutionally conditioning the right of free exercise of one’s religion on the “surrender” of the right to seek office as a delegate.368 Similarly, in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the Court held that a church that ran a preschool and daycare center could not be disqualified from participating in a Missouri program that offered funding for the resurfacing of playgrounds because of the church’s religious affiliation.369 Specifically, Chief Justice Roberts, on behalf of the Court,370 noted that Missouri’s policy of excluding an otherwise eligible recipient from a public benefit solely because of its religious character imposed an unlawful penalty on the free exercise of religion triggering the “most exacting scrutiny.”371 In so holding, the Court rejected the State of Missouri’s argument that declining to extend funds to the church did not prohibit it from engaging in any religious conduct or otherwise exercising its religious rights.372 Relying on McDaniel, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that because the Free Exercise Clause protects against “indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion,” as well as “outright” prohibitions on religious exercise, Trinity Lutheran had a right to participate in a government benefit program without having to disavow its religious status.373 Moreover, the Court held that Missouri’s policy of requiring organizations like the plaintiff to renounce its religious character in order to participate in the public benefit program could not be justified by a policy preference to achieve greater separation of church and state than what is already required under the Establishment Clause.374 As a result, the Court held that Missouri’s policy violated the Free Exercise Clause.375


253 Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 222–23 (1963). 254 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S 398, 402 (1963) (emphasis in original). 255 Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 607 (1961). 256 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 402 (1963) Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961). 257 Academics as well as the Justices grapple with the extent to which religious practices as well as beliefs are protected by the Free Exercise Clause. For contrasting academic views of the origins and purposes of the Free Exercise Clause, compare McConnell, The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion, 103 H ARV. L. REV . 1410 (1990) (concluding that constitutionally compelled exemptions from generally applicable laws are consistent with the Clause’s origins in religious pluralism) with Marshall, The Case Against the Constitutionally Compelled Free Exercise Exemption, 40 C ASE W. RES. L. REV . 357 (1989–90) (arguing that such exemptions establish an invalid preference for religious beliefs over non-religious beliefs). 258 E.g., Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879) Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944) Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961) United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982) Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). 259 “The Court has struggled to find a neutral course between the two Religion Clauses, both of which are cast in absolute terms, and either of which, if expanded to a logical extreme, would tend to clash with the other.” Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 668–69 (1970). 260 Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm’n, 480 U.S. 136, 144–45 (1987). 261 Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. at 669. See also Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712, 718 (2004) Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 713 (2005). 262 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 409 (1963). Accord, Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 719–20 (1981). Dissenting in Thomas, Justice Rehnquist argued that Sherbert and Thomas created unacceptable tensions between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, and that requiring the states to accommodate persons like Sherbert and Thomas because of their religious beliefs ran the risk of “establishing” religion under the Court’s existing tests. He argued further, however, that less expansive interpretations of both clauses would eliminate this artificial tension. Thus, Justice Rehnquist would have interpreted the Free Exercise Clause as not requiring government to grant exemptions from general requirements that may burden religious exercise but that do not prohibit religious practices outright, and would have interpreted the Establishment Clause as not preventing government from voluntarily granting religious exemptions. 450 U.S. at 720–27. By 1990 these views had apparently gained ascendancy, Justice Scalia’s opinion for the Court in the “peyote” case suggesting that accommodation should be left to the political process, i.e., that states could constitutionally provide exceptions in their drug laws for sacramental peyote use, even though such exceptions are not constitutionally required. Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 890 (1990). 263 See, e.g., Walz v. Tax Comm’n, 397 U.S. 664 (upholding property tax exemption for religious organizations) Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327 (1987) (upholding Civil Rights Act exemption allowing religious institutions to restrict hiring to members of religion) Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437, 453–54 (1971) (interpreting conscientious objection exemption from military service) Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005) (upholding a provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 that prohibits governments from imposing a “substantial burden on the religious exercise” of an institutionalized person unless the burden furthers a “compelling governmental interest”). 264 See, e.g., Committee for Pub. Educ. & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 788–89 (1973) (tuition reimbursement grants to parents of parochial school children violate Establishment Clause in spite of New York State’s argument that program was designed to promote free exercise by enabling low-income parents to send children to church schools) Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989) (state sales tax exemption for religious publications violates the Establishment Clause) (plurality opinion) Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687, 706–07 (1994) (“accommodation is not a principle without limits” one limit is that “neutrality as among religions must be honored”). 265 Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 724 (2005) (quoting Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos, 483 U.S. 327, 338 (1987)). 266 Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004). 267 540 U.S. at 720–21. Excluding theology students but not students training for other professions was permissible, the Court explained, because “[t]raining someone to lead a congregation is an essentially religious endeavor,” and the Constitution’s special treatment of religion finds “no counterpart with respect to other callings or professions.” Id. at 721. 268 540 U.S. at 720–21 (distinguishing Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993) (law aimed at restricting ritual of a single religious group) McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618 (1978) (law denying ministers the right to serve as delegates to a constitutional convention) and Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) (among the cases prohibiting denial of benefits to Sabbatarians)). 269 See also Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 582 U.S. ___, No. 15–577, slip op. at 12 (2017) (emphases in original). 270 Id. at 13 (citing Locke, 540 U.S at 724). 271 Id. at 14–15. 272 Id. at 13–14 (“In this case, there is no dispute that Trinity Lutheran is put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit. The rule is simple: No churches need apply.”) (emphasis added). 273 Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 304 (1940). 274 Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 166 (1879). “Crime is not the less odious because sanctioned by what any particular sect may designate as ‘religion.’ ” Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 345 (1890). In another context, Justice Sutherland in United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605, 625 (1931), suggested a plenary governmental power to regulate action in denying that recognition of conscientious objection to military service was of a constitutional magnitude, saying that “unqualified allegiance to the Nation and submission and obedience to the laws of the land, as well those made for war as those made for peace, are not inconsistent with the will of God.” 275 Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (compulsory vaccination) Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944) (child labor) Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946) (polygamy). In Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 403 (1963), Justice Brennan asserted that the “conduct or activities so regulated [in the cited cases] have invariably posed some substantial threat to public safety, peace or order.” 276 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) cf. Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 607 (1961): “[I]f the State regulates conduct by enacting a general law within its power, the purpose and effect of which is to advance the State’s secular goals, the statute is valid despite its indirect burden on religious observance unless the State may accomplish its purpose by means which do not impose such a burden.” 277 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 403, 406–09 (1963). In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), the Court recognized compelling state interests in provision of public education, but found insufficient evidence that those interests (preparing children for citizenship and for self-reliance) would be furthered by requiring Amish children to attend public schools beyond the eighth grade. Instead, the evidence showed that the Amish system of vocational education prepared their children for life in their self-sufficient communities. 278 United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982) (holding mandatory participation in the Social Security system by an Amish employer religiously opposed to such social welfare benefits to be “indispensable” to the fiscal vitality of the system) Bob Jones Univ. v. United States, 461 U.S. 754 (1983) (holding government’s interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education to outweigh the religious interest of a private college whose racial discrimination was founded on religious beliefs) and Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680 (1989) (holding that government has a compelling interest in maintaining a uniform tax system “free of ‘myriad exceptions flowing from a wide variety of religious beliefs’ ”) 279 Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986) O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342 (1987). 280 494 U.S. 872, 878 (1990). 281 494 U.S. at 890. 282 Employment Division v. Smith is discussed under “Free Exercise Exemption From General Governmental Requirements,” infra, as is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was enacted in response to the case. 283 Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879) cf. Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946) (no religious-belief defense to Mann Act prosecution for transporting a woman across state line for the “immoral purpose” of polygamy). 284 Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15 (1885). 285 Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890). “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. . . . To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind. If they are crimes, then to teach, advise and counsel their practice is to aid in their commission, and such teaching and counseling are themselves criminal and proper subjects of punishment, as aiding and abetting crime are in all other cases.” Id. at 341–42. 286 The Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890). “[T]he property of the said corporation . . . [is to be used to promote] the practice of polygamy—a crime against the laws, and abhorrent to the sentiments and feelings of the civilized world. . . . The organization of a community for the spread and practice of polygamy is, in a measure, a return to barbarism. It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.” Id. at 48–49. 287 For later cases dealing with other religious groups discomfiting to the mainstream, see Heffron v. ISKCON, 452 U.S. 640 (1981) (Hare Krishnas) Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228 (1982) (Unification Church). Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993) (Santeria faith). 288 Most of the cases are collected and categorized by Justice Frankfurter in Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268, 273 (1951) (concurring opinion). 289 310 U.S. 296 (1940). 290 310 U.S. at 305. 291 310 U.S. at 307. “The freedom to act must have appropriate definition to preserve the enforcement of that protection [of society]. In every case the power to regulate must be so exercised as not, in attaining a permissible end, unduly to infringe the protected freedom. . . . [A] State may by general and non-discriminatory legislation regulate the times, the places, and the manner of soliciting upon its streets, and of holding meetings thereon and may in other respects safeguard the peace, good order and comfort of the community, without unconstitutionally invading the liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. at 304. 292 310 U.S. at 307–11. “In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times, resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But the people of this nation have ordained in the light of history, that, in spite of the probabilities of excesses and abuses, these liberties are in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.” Id. at 310. 293 Jones v. Opelika, 316 U.S. 584 (1942). 294 Jones v. Opelika, 319 U.S. 103 (1943) Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (1943). See also Follett v. Town of McCormick, 321 U.S. 573 (1944) (invalidating a flat licensing fee for booksellers). Murdock and Follett were distinguished in Jimmy Swaggart Ministries v. California Bd. of Equalization, 493 U.S. 378, 389 (1990), as applying “only where a flat license fee operates as a prior restraint” upheld in Swaggart was application of a general sales and use tax to sales of religious publications. 295 Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943). But cf. Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951) (similar ordinance sustained in commercial solicitation context). 296 Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944). 297 E.g., Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268 (1951) Kunz v. New York, 340 U.S. 290 (1951) Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67 (1953) Poulos v. New Hampshire, 345 U.S. 395 (1953). See also Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228 (1982) (solicitation on state fair ground by Unification Church members). 298 Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150 (2002). 299 494 U.S. 872 (1990). 300 Minersville School Dist. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940). 301 West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). On the same day, the Court held that a state may not forbid the distribution of literature urging and advising on religious grounds that citizens refrain from saluting the flag. Taylor v. Mississippi, 319 U.S. 583 (1943). In 2004, the Court rejected for lack of standing an Establishment Clause challenge to recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1 (2004). 302 See United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929) United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605 (1931) and United States v. Bland, 283 U.S. 636 (1931) (all interpreting the naturalization law as denying citizenship to a conscientious objector who would not swear to bear arms in defense of the country), all three of which were overruled by Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946), on strictly statutory grounds. See also Hamilton v. Board of Regents, 293 U.S. 245 (1934) (upholding expulsion from state university for a religiously based refusal to take a required course in military training) In re Summers, 325 U.S. 561 (1945) (upholding refusal to admit applicant to bar because as conscientious objector he could not take required oath). 303 United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965) see id. at 188 (Justice Douglas concurring) Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333 (1970) see also id. at 344 (Justice Harlan concurring). 304 Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437 (1971) (holding that secular considerations overbalanced free exercise infringement of religious beliefs of objectors to particular wars). 305 366 U.S. 599 (1961). See “Sunday Closing Laws,” supra, for application of the Establishment Clause. 306 366 U.S. at 605–06. 307 366 U.S. at 607 (plurality opinion). The concurrence balanced the economic disadvantage suffered by the Sabbatarians against the important interest of the state in securing its day of rest regulation. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. at 512–22. Three Justices dissented. Id. at 561 (Justice Douglas) Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. at 610 (Justice Brennan), 616 (Justice Stewart). 308 374 U.S. 398 (1963). 309 374 U.S. at 403, quoting NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 438 (1963). 310 374 U.S. at 403–06. 311 374 U.S. at 407. Braunfeld was distinguished because of “a countervailing factor which finds no equivalent in the instant case—a strong state interest in providing one uniform day of rest for all workers.” That secular objective could be achieved, the Court found, only by declaring Sunday to be that day of rest. Requiring exemptions for Sabbatarians, while theoretically possible, appeared to present an administrative problem of such magnitude, or to afford the exempted class so great a competitive advantage, that such a requirement would have rendered the entire statutory scheme unworkable. Id. at 408–09. Other Justices thought that Sherbert overruled Braunfeld. Id. at 413, 417 (Justice Stewart concurring), 418 (Justice Harlan and White dissenting). 312 450 U.S. 707 (1981). 313 Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm’n, 480 U.S. 136 (1987). 314 Frazee v. Illinois Dep’t of Employment Security, 489 U.S. 829 (1989). Cf. United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965) (interpreting the religious objection exemption from military service as encompassing a broad range of formal and personal religious beliefs). 315 406 U.S. 205 (1972). 316 406 U.S. at 215–19. Why the Court felt impelled to make these points is unclear, as it is settled that it is improper for courts to inquire into the interpretation of religious belief. E.g., United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 257 (1982). 317 406 U.S. at 219–21. 318 406 U.S. at 221. 319 406 U.S. at 221–29. 320 455 U.S. 252 (1982). 321 The Court’s formulation was whether the limitation on religious exercise was “essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest.” 455 U.S. at 257–58. Accord, Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680, 699–700 (1989) (any burden on free exercise imposed by disallowance of a tax deduction was “justified by the ‘broad public interest in maintaining a sound tax system’ free of ‘myriad exceptions flowing from a wide variety of religious beliefs’ ”). 322 461 U.S. 574 (1983). 323 461 U.S. at 604. 324 Heffron v. ISKCON, 452 U.S. 640 (1981). Requiring Krishnas to solicit at fixed booth sites on county fair grounds is a valid time, place, and manner regulation, although, as the Court acknowledged, id. at 652, peripatetic solicitation was an element of Krishna religious rites. 325 As restated in Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680, 699 (1989). 326 Jimmy Swaggart Ministries v. California Bd. of Equalization, 493 U.S. 378, 391 (1990). See also Tony and Susan Alamo Found. v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290 (1985) (the Court failing to perceive how application of minimum wage and overtime requirements would burden free exercise rights of employees of a religious foundation, there being no assertion that the amount of compensation was a matter of religious import) and Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680 (1989) (questioning but not deciding whether any burden was imposed by administrative disallowal of a deduction for payments deemed to be for commercial rather than religious or charitable purposes). 327 Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, 493 U.S. at 392. 328 485 U.S. 439 (1988). 329 485 U.S. at 451, quoting Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 412 (1963) (Douglas, J., concurring). 330 Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693 (1986). 331 “In neither case . . . would the affected individuals be coerced by the Government’s action into violating their religious beliefs nor would either governmental action penalize religious activity.” Lyng, 485 U.S. at 449. 332 Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503, 507 (1986). 333 Congress reacted swiftly by enacting a provision allowing military personnel to wear religious apparel while in uniform, subject to exceptions to be made by the Secretary of the relevant military department for circumstances in which the apparel would interfere with performance of military duties or would not be “neat and conservative.” Pub. L. 100–180, § 508(a)(2), 101 Stat. 1086 (1987) 10 U.S.C. § 774. 334 O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987) (quoting Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987)). 335 O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342 (1987). 336 482 U.S. at 351–52 (also suggesting that the ability of the inmates to engage in other activities required by their faith, e.g., individual prayer and observance of Ramadan, rendered the restriction reasonable). 337 494 U.S. 872 (1990) (holding that state may apply criminal penalties to use of peyote in a religious ceremony, and may deny unemployment benefits to persons dismissed from their jobs because of religiously inspired use of peyote). 338 494 U.S. at 878. 339 494 U.S. at 884. 340 494 U.S. at 881. 341 494 U.S. at 890. 342 This much was made clear by Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), which struck down a city ordinance that prohibited ritual animal sacrifice but that allowed other forms of animal slaughter. 343 508 U.S. 520, 531 (1993). 344 This latter condition derives from the fact that the Court in Swaggart distinguished earlier decisions by characterizing them as applying only to flat license fees. 493 U.S. at 386. See also Laycock, The Remnants of Free Exercise, 1990 S UP. CT. REV . 1, 39–41. 345 Justice O’Connor, concurring in Smith, argued that “the Free Exercise Clause protects values distinct from those protected by the Equal Protection Clause.” 494 U.S. at 901. 346 Although neutral laws affecting expressive conduct are not measured by a “compelling interest” test, they are “subject to a balancing, rather than categorical, approach.” Smith, 494 U.S. at 902 (O’Connor, J., concurring). 347 494 U.S. at 902–03. 348 565 U.S. ___, No. 10–553, slip op. (2012). 349 In this case, the employee, who suffered from narcolepsy, alleged that she had been fired in retaliation for threatening to bring a legal action against the church under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 104 Stat. 327, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. 350 An important issue in the case was determining when an employee of a religious institution was a “minister.” The Court declined to create a uniform standard, but suggested deference to the position of the religious institution in making such a determinination. In this case, a “called” elementary school teacher (as opposed to a “contract” teacher) was found to be a “minister” based on her title, the religious education qualifications required for the position, how the church and the employee represented her position to others, and the religious functions performed by the employee as part of her job responsibilities. 565 U.S. ___, No. 10–553, slip op. at 15–20. 351 565 U.S. ___, No. 10–553, slip op. at 15. 352 Pub. L. 103–141, 107 Stat. 1488 (1993) 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb to 2000bb–4. 353 Pub. L. 103–141, § 2(b)(1) (citations omitted). Congress also avowed a purpose of providing “a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.” § 2(b)(2). 354 521 U.S. 507 (1997). 355 521 U.S. at 519. 356 521 U.S. at 533–34. 357 521 U.S. at 536. 358 See, e.g., In re Young, 141 F.3d 854 (8th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 811 (1998) (RFRA is a valid exercise of Congress’s bankruptcy powers as applied to insulate a debtor’s church tithes from recovery by the bankruptcy trustee) O’Bryan v. Bureau of Prisons, 349 F.3d 399 (7th Cir. 2003) (RFRA may be applied to require the Bureau of Prisons to accommodate religious exercise by prisoners) Kikumura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950 (10th Cir. 2001) (RFRA applies to Bureau of Prisons). 359 SeeBurwell v. Hobby Lobby573 U.S. __, No. 13–354. slip op. (2014)(holding that RFRA applied to for-profit corporations and that a mandate that certain employers provide their employees with “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity” violated RFRA’s general provisions) See alsoGonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006) (affirming preliminary injunction issued under RFRA against enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act to prevent the drinking of a sacramental tea that contains a hallucinogen regulated under the Act). 360 Pub. L. 106–274, 114 Stat. 804 (2000) 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. 361 The Act requires that state and local zoning and landmark laws and regulations which impose a substantial burden on an individual’s or institution’s exercise of religion be measured by a strict scrutiny test, and applies the same strict scrutiny test for any substantial burdens imposed on the exercise of religion by persons institutionalized in state or locally run prisons, mental hospitals, juvenile detention facilities, and nursing homes. Both provisions apply if the burden is imposed in a program that receives federal financial assistance, or if the burden or its removal would affect commerce. 362 544 U.S. 709 (2005). 363 544 U.S. at 714. 364 544 U.S. at 720. 365 Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 494 (1961). 366 See Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 506 U.S. 520, 533, 542 (1993). 367 435 U.S. 618, 620 (1978). 368 See Id. at 626 (plurality opinion). A plurality opinion by Chief Justice Burger, joined by Justices Powell, Rehnquist, and Stevens noted that the absolute prohibition on the government regulating religious beliefs (as established by Torasco v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)) was inapplicable to the case because the Tennessee disqualification was a prohibition based on religious “status,” not belief. See id. at 626–27. Nonetheless, the plurality opinion concluded that the (1) Tennessee law was governed by the balancing test established under Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 498, 406 (1963), and (2) the law’s regulation of religious status could not be justified based on the state’s outmoded views of the dangers of clergy participation in the political process. Id. at 627–28. Justice Brennan, joined by Justice Marshall, relying on Torasco, argued that the challenged provision, by establishing as a “condition of office the willingness to eschew certain protected religious practices,” violated the Free Exercise Clause. Id. at 632 (Brennan, J., concurring). Justice Brennan’s concurrence also maintained that the exclusion created by the Tennessee law could violate the Establishment Clause. Id. at 636. In a separate opinion, Justice Stewart noted his agreement with Justice Brennan’s conclusion that Torasco controlled the case. Id. at 642 (Stewart, J., concurring). Rather than relying on the Free Exercise Clause to invalidate the Tennessee law, Justice White’s concurrence suggested that the law was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 643 (White, J., concurring). 369 See also Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 582 U.S. ___, No. 15–577, slip op. at 5 n.1 (2017). 370 Three Justices (Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan) joined Chief Justice Roberts’ entire opinion, while Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined in all but a single footnote of the decision. The footnote that Justices Thomas and Gorsuch declined to join was a footnote that claimed that the instant case was examining “express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing” and did not “address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.” Id. at 18 n.3. 371 Id. at 10. 372 Id. 373 Id. at 10–11. As a result, the Court characterized the church’s injury not so much as being the “denial of a grant” itself, but rather the “refusal to allow the Church . . . to compete with secular organizations for a grant.” Id. at 11. 374 Id. at 14. Both parties agreed, and the Court accepted, that the Establishment Clause did not prevent Missouri from including the church in the state’s grant program. Id. at 6. 375 Id. at 14–15.

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