Policy

Religious Freedom

Respecting human dignity requires that we respect the core elements of how people and groups identify themselves, including their religious beliefs. Religious belief has been a powerful motivation for protecting the rights and liberties of others; it kindled movements to abolish slavery and protect Americans’ civil rights. For millions of Americans, religion is the source of the values required in a free society, such as understanding, respect and sacrifice for others. Additionally, religious institutions provide irreplaceable care for the most vulnerable people in society.

For all of these reasons, the right to exercise religion is a fundamental human right. The law should respect the independence of religious institutions, defend the right of conscience, and protect the right of individuals to act on their religious beliefs, while establishing reasonable protections for public health and safety in a spirit of fairness for all.

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Policy

Religious Freedom

Respecting human dignity requires that we respect the core elements of how people and groups identify themselves, including their religious beliefs. Religious belief has been a powerful motivation for protecting the rights and liberties of others; it kindled movements to abolish slavery and protect Americans’ civil rights. For millions of Americans, religion is the source of the values required in a free society, such as understanding, respect and sacrifice for others. Additionally, religious institutions provide irreplaceable care for the most vulnerable people in society.

For all of these reasons, the right to exercise religion is a fundamental human right. The law should respect the independence of religious institutions, defend the right of conscience, and protect the right of individuals to act on their religious beliefs, while establishing reasonable protections for public health and safety in a spirit of fairness for all.

Research & Insights

How did U.S. get to the point where religious services are ‘nonessential’?

There appear to be three factors at work: a decline in formal legal protection of religious freedom; an increase in general regulations that impact religious practice; and a decline in religiosity among Americans generally.

Courts siding with worshipers on overly strict pandemic directives

Fifty percent of Americans feel their freedoms have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from State Policy Network conducted by Heart + Mind Strategies.

The economy seems to be falling off a cliff. Is America’s commitment to religion doing the same?

The report provides careful and detailed analysis on the decline of “religiosity” – measured by affiliation with churches, church attendance, and other factors – in the United States.

War and consequences: U.S. embraces its ideals of religious freedom

During a massive conflict with the Nazi government in Germany (which practiced state-enforced oppression and prejudice), the United States began to embrace its own religious traditions of openness, tolerance and freedom.

Meet the nuns behind the Supreme Court case

Whether we as individuals identify as religious or not, we are all better off because the Little Sisters of the Poor do what they do. There is nothing wrong with crafting our laws and court decisions in recognition of that fact

Pandemic is a stress test for government and society

Much of what we are learning through the pandemic experience can be positive, but we must also let these kinds of lessons sink in and change how the government functions going forward.

Pastors being arrested. Mayors shutting down churches. What does the law say about all of this?

In the fluid pandemic situation, religious freedom is being tossed around both as an excuse for continuing public gatherings and as a focus of derision from those who are using the crisis to argue that religious people are the problem.

SCOTUS to hear arguments by phone – and can a state go too far to protect religious liberty?

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to conduct oral arguments by phone next month. This effort to adjust to ongoing pandemic conditions will be a first for the court.

Pandemic brings out religion’s unifying power … even for the nonreligious

In a time of crisis, such as the present pandemic, we are often reminded of fundamental realities that can be easy to forget or take for granted during better times.

Potential SCOTUS case could protect supporters of unpopular causes from retribution

This is an important case with the potential to clarify whether a state can, like Alabama tried to do in the 1950s, create a climate where supporters of private associations are at risk of being harassed or intimidated because of their beliefs.

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