Street Law: A Course in Practical Law
Freedom of Religion
Religious freedom in the United States is protected by two First Amendment clauses. The establishment clause and the free exercise clause were created to ensure government neutrality toward religion. These clauses prohibit the government from showing preference for any one religion, demanding that a religion be practiced, or endorsing or imposing religious beliefs.
The Establishment Clause The establishment clause ensures the separation between church and state. Under the establishment clause, state and federal governments are forbidden to establish churches, promote any one religion, or show preference for one religion over another. Prayer in public schools and aid to parochial schools are two controversial establishment clause topics.
The Free Exercise Clause Under the free exercise clause, every individual is entitled to his or her own religious beliefs. Although the government cannot control religious beliefs, it can sometimes regulate religious practices. Religious practices or actions can be reasonably restricted if they interfere with important goals of government.