Explore the First Amendment Freedom of Religion

Meet Our Religious Freedom Experts

The Freedom Forum’s religious freedom experts educate the public about religion, law and civic engagement so that communities are equipped to protect the rights of people of all religious traditions and none.

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Colonists fled religious persecution 500 years ago to worship as they pleased in America. Indigenous people who had their own belief systems were already present when they arrived. Enslaved people brought faith practices from another continent.

The founders of the United States made religion the first freedom protected from government interference in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Americans’ right to worship or choose not to is a fundamental freedom, cherished and debated since the founding of the nation. But sometimes, the free exercise of religion clashes with the rights of others.

From prayer in schools to limits on faith communities assembling during a pandemic, debates over religious freedom strike at the essence of what it means to be human. This page provides expert insights designed to help you better understand, protect and defend the First Amendment freedom of religion.

Explore Artifacts and Key Stories


Of Monkeys, Men and God

Of Monkeys, Men and God
High school teacher John Scopes was found guilty in 1925 of breaking Tennessee law prohibiting teaching anything that challenged the Bible’s story of creation. He taught Darwin’s theory of evolution.

 
The Right to Witness

The Right to Witness
The practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses going door-to-door to share their faith, and recordings like this one, led to a landmark 1940 Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom.

Immigrants, the Pope and Power

Immigrants, the Pope and Power
Anti-immigrant sentiment in 1837 spurred Protestant New Yorkers to petition against Catholic immigrants becoming citizens — and a powerful voting bloc.

Expert Columns

Read our experts’ columns explaining your freedom of religion.

FirstFive_05.13.21

Perspective: Sikh Americans Defend Religious Freedom For All
By David Callaway
Being an American means you do not have to choose between your deepest beliefs and your country – thanks, in part, to the work of these Indian Americans.

FirstFive_04.01.2021

Perspective: Faith on the Field – Athletes Exercise Religious Freedom
By Tristiaña Hinton
Standing up, kneeling down or sitting out for what you believe isn’t always easy. Athletes whose talent has thrust them into the public spotlight can face an extra level of scrutiny when they express their religious beliefs.

More columns:

Dig Deeper: Religious Freedom Projects and Resources


African Americans and Religious Freedom: New Perspectives for Congregations and Communities

African Americans and Religious Freedom: New Perspectives for Congregations and Communities
This collection of essays examines how and in what ways African Americans have navigated the contested terrain of religious freedom in America. The essays present novel interpretations of religious freedom critically informed by African American culture, history, ideas and religious experiences. This publication was made possible through the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation.

Committee on Religious Liberty

Committee on Religious Liberty
The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum serves as a convener to more than 50 different religious and civil liberties organization leaders representing a broad spectrum of religious and ideological perspectives.

 
The Georgia 3Rs Project

Rights, Responsibility, Respect: The Georgia 3Rs Project
A First Amendment Framework for Promoting Religious Liberty in Public Schools

Public Scholars Project

Public Scholars Project
Through seminars and other resources, the Public Scholars Project equips scholars of religion to effectively communicate in the public sphere and foster religious literacy.

 
Religious Literacy for Students

Religious Literacy for Students
Looking for religious freedom and religious literacy experts to speak with your students? The Freedom Forum offers virtual, live-taught classes on the role of religion in private and public life.

Constitution 2 Classroom

Constitution 2 Classroom
Professional development modules for educators seeking to understand the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections, learn academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate methods for teaching about religion and help students find common ground across difference.

 
Religion and Law Collide

Religion and Law Collide
The battle between private beliefs and public law rages on.

 

For more resources from our Freedom Forum Experts, visit us online.

Programs

Stream all programs from the Religious Freedom Center here.


The Georgia 3Rs Project

Does Religious Freedom Matter in 2021? African American Perspectives
African American religious, civic and education leaders share experiences and insights as they discuss the role and value of religious freedom in contemporary America. This program was made possible by generous support from donors to the Georgia 3Rs Project including the Templeton Religion Trust, The Cousins Foundation and the Cecil B. Day Foundation.

>First Five Now: The Supreme Court and Religious Freedom

First Five Now: The Supreme Court and Religious Freedom
The Supreme Court wrapped its most recent term with a number of headline-making decisions over religious freedom, including cases involving employment discrimination, religious schools and contraception.

Religious Resolve: Stories from Our Past, for Our Future

Religious Resolve: Stories from Our Past, for Our Future
This virtual series explores historical stories of people — famous and not — of deep faith who put their beliefs into action to challenge racial divisions and create a better world. These webinars were made possible by generous support from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Disrupt the Narrative: Centering African American Perspectives on Religious Freedom

Disrupt the Narrative: Centering African American Perspectives on Religious Freedom
This public conversation explores the ethics and complex politics of race and religious freedom by centering the issues, narratives and experiences of African Americans in the United States. It is the second in a series of public events exploring the politics of religious freedom through our “Religious Freedom: African American Perspectives” project. This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Embracing Religious Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Embracing Religious Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace
A virtual summit on the challenges and opportunities facing business leaders with the increasing presence of religious beliefs in a diverse workforce. Learn how a First Amendment approach to religious diversity and inclusion can help your company best meet the specific needs of the organization, employees and consumers. This summit is made possible by generous support from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and Templeton Religion Trust.

5 Minutes of Religious Freedom

5 Minutes of Religious Freedom
A web series about how “religious freedom, liberty of conscience, is a precious, fundamental right for people of all religions and none.” — Williamsburg Charter.

For more upcoming programs, visit our events calendar here.

 

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