ACLU Defends Religious Freedom for All

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

— First Amendment

Religious freedom is the right to practice the religion of one’s choice or no religion at all. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights protects religious freedom by keeping religion free from government interference and coercion.

The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. More than 1,500 different religious bodies and sects, including 75 varieties of Baptists alone, coexist and flourish here.

How has the United States been able to maintain an extremely diverse and devout religious population and had relatively few incidents of sectarian strife? The ACLU believes that the answer lies in the complete separation of church and state required by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Many people mistakenly believe that separation of church and state implies official hostility to religion, and it is sometimes wrongly imagined that the ACLU is anti-religion. But nothing could be further from the truth. The ACLU was founded to protect the Bill of Rights, most notably the First Amendment, which states that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof.” Our founders recognized that religous liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone.

The ACLU is fully engaged in defending a broad range of constitutional rights, including rights related to freedom of religion and belief. Some continue to insist that the ACLU does not vigorously protect rights of freedom of religion, particularly of Christians. In fact, the opposite is true. The following recent cases illustrate just how wrong these misconceptions are. Although the cases listed below are under the categories of “Christians” and “non-Christian” (representing the religious beliefs of those who were defended), constitutional rights belong to everyone and not only to people of particular religious faiths. The ACLU is also proud of its work defending the rights of everyone by ensuring that the Establishment Clause is fully respected.

Read more about the national ACLU’s work on religious freedom.

Read more about the San Diego ACLU’s work on religious freedom.