“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on December 15th 1791. It protects some of the most important rights Americans enjoy today – like the freedom to practice religion any way they want.
What is Freedom of Religion?
The First Amendment stops the government from making a national religion. Many other countries have laws that make one official religion and don’t allow any others. For example, nations like Saudi Arabia have Islam as the country’s official religion, and people who do not follow the commands of Islamic law could be punished by the Saudi government.
While some countries do not have a state religion, they do have laws that prevent some people from practicing their faith. The Chinese government is known for its treatment of both Christians and Muslims. They imprison Christians for talking about their faith in public. Over the past few years, the country has arrested Chinese Muslims. The Founding Fathers of the United States wanted to make sure the U.S. government could never act like that.
Why is this Right Protected?
The Puritans and pilgrims who traveled to North America in the early 1600s were fleeing religious persecution at the hands of England’s government. They embraced Christian beliefs that were not in line with the Church of England, and so they were treated brutally.
In 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote a bill to protect religious freedom. Unfortunately, it did not pass. But later, in 1791, it was made into law through the First Amendment. There have been many discussions since then about what type of religious practices should be allowed. For the most part, Americans living today do not need to fear persecution from the government based on their religion.