Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
I chose the category Freedom of Religion because I find the many different religions followed in America fascinating. I enjoy learning about them all and expanding my knowledge of the rituals and celebrations different religions participate in. I chose The Free Exercise Clause sub category because I find how even though the first amendment provides freedom of religion it does not give freedom of all religious practices such as polygamy and sacrifice. The U. S. constitution protects against the governments interference with the citizens freedom to worship or not worship as they please by the first amendment.
This Amendment guarantees the right for citizens to freely practice their religion as they choose to which may seem simple, but becomes complicated when the actions of religious groups are unaccepted by society or go against other laws. In Employment Division v. Smith 1998, the Supreme Court discarded the previous requirement for a compelling interest before governmental limitation or prohibition of religious practices. The court ruled it constitutional for state laws to interfere with religious practices as long as the law is not aimed at singling out and banning religious practices.
In this case persons using the drug peyote as part of their religious rituals were prosecuted by the state of Oregon (Edwards, &Wattenberg, &Lineberry, 2008). The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was an attempt to overturn the principle court ruling in Smith. This act gave the right to perform religious rituals unless the government could prove the law or regulation in question to be narrowly tailored and in pursuit of a compelling interest. This act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1997 because it was an intrusion regulating the health and welfare of the states citizens.
In 2006 the law still applied to federal government and a religious sect was allowed to use a hallucinogenic in the form of a tea in rituals (Edwards, &Wattenberg, &Lineberry, 2008). I support the Supreme Court ruling in Employment Division v. Smith. I think religious practices should have to follow the state laws and that the state should make laws that are not specific to religion. I don’t think its right for a religious sect to be allowed to do something that a person not belonging to that religion would not be allowed to do. Religious practices should have to follow the same laws as everyone else.
I also don’t think it’s right for a state to make any laws based solely on a religious practice. If a law is to be made regulating something a religion is practicing then the law should apply to all citizens not solely the religion. If laws were made that solely allowed or prohibited something for a religious group then people would just change their religious beliefs to get around the law. The Fading Free Exercise Clause is an article in the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal that discusses issues with the Free Exercise Clause and how it has not had as much mention is recent court cases dealing with freedom of religion as in the past.
The Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez is used as an example for analyzing the present state of the Free Exercise Clause. The group claimed it was being excluded from campus life based on requirements for members to live according to religious principles and subscribe to a statement of faith. The author argues that the Christian Legal Society almost completely lacks mention of the Free Exercise Clause in the case and the main complaint was about the declaration and exercise of religious beliefs.
The author analyzes past cases dealing with the Free Exercise Clause beginning with Employment Division v. Smith in 1990. The author concludes that the clause has occasionally played a supporting role in Supreme Court decisions but it has not provided an independent basis for constitutional relief since 1993 and outlines an approach to the Free Exercise Clause that seeks to accomplish the treatment of all citizens equally and give religious believers special privileges (Reyes, 2011).
From the journal I learned that the importance of the Free Exercise Clause is different in court cases with more emphasis on the clause in the past than in the present. I also now know that the clause can be used to support either the treatments of all citizens equally or to give religious practices special privileges. This article has helped me understand the different outcomes in the previously mentioned court cases. The Center for Religious Freedom promotes religious freedom as a component of U.
S. foreign policy. This group works with a worldwide network of experts to defend against religious persecution and oppression. This group is ensures that American policymakers defend religious freedom and defend people persecuted solely for their religious beliefs. The Center has made strides in drawing attention to religious prosecution all over the world (Hudson Institute Inc. , 2013). We need more protection of this liberty in contemporary American society.
As different sects and branches of religion form there will be different issues with society that deal with religion needing to be solved in court. If the definition of religious freedoms and when religious liberty should yield to other values were more specific it could help protect the differences amongst the religions and provide more equality in laws. I think that would lessen the conflicts in America dealing with religion and help define when something should or should not be allowed such as the use of drugs in religious rituals which has been allowed and denied by the Supreme Court.