First Amendment: Freedom of Religion


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First Amendment: Freedom of Religion

  1. 1. The First Amendment: Freedom of Religion
  2. 2. <ul><li>“And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” </li></ul><ul><li>—Mark 16:17-18 </li></ul>
  3. 3. Religious Snakehandling <ul><li>First appeared in American Christianity around 1910 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Associated with ministry of George Went Hensley in southeastern Tennessee </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Practice extended throughout Appalachia, into the deep South, west to Ohio and north to Canada </li></ul>
  4. 4. Religious Snakehandling <ul><li>Worship services include singing, praying, speaking in tongues and preaching </li></ul><ul><li>Area behind pulpit used for handling </li></ul><ul><li>Handling is voluntary—those who feel “anointed” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Handlers hold the snakes in the air or let them crawl on their bodies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some members will also engage in drinking poison (often strychnine) </li></ul><ul><li>Rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, cobras </li></ul><ul><li>Viewed as incarnations of demons; handling shows power over them </li></ul>
  5. 5. Religious Snakehandling <ul><li>Resulted in over 60 documented US deaths </li></ul><ul><li>Bites are viewed as a lack of faith or failure to follow the Spirit </li></ul><ul><li>Victims generally do not seek medical help but depend on faith healing </li></ul><ul><li>Practice is outlawed by several states </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Case <ul><li>Rock House Holiness Church with Signs Following establishes church in Columbus, OH after having been run out of other towns </li></ul><ul><li>Congregation of 150+ members </li></ul><ul><li>Columbus has a reputation for being affordable and tolerant of alternative lifestyles </li></ul><ul><li>Meet in an old farmhouse </li></ul><ul><li>Host open house service, invite media </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Case <ul><li>After report, thousands of shocked residents called state legislators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Called the church a “cult” with “bizarre rituals” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Argued a health hazard posed by snakes and poison </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Legislature changed state law </li></ul><ul><li>Within 1 year, the church closed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Member: “We’re all going to Hell now because the government has stopped us from doing what God wants” </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. The New Law <ul><li>Section 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Any person who displays, handles, exhibits, or uses any poisonous or dangerous snake or reptile for religious purposes in such a manner as to endanger the life or health of himself or another shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be imprisoned for a term to be fixed by the court of not less than one, nor more than five years. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. The New Law <ul><li>Section 2 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Any person who possesses, ingests, consumes, or uses in any way any poisonous substance for religious purposes in such a manner as to endanger the life or health of himself or another shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be imprisoned for a term to be fixed by the court of not less than one, nor more than five years. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Historical Attitudes <ul><li>Jefferson: “Wall of separation between church and state” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why would this have been of particular importance to the founders? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When linked, individual freedoms are in jeopardy </li></ul><ul><li>Worldly politics can corrupt and ruin the sanctity of religion </li></ul>
  11. 11. Establishment Clause <ul><li>Forbids Congress to make laws establishing an official religion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Separationists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A wall should exist between church and state </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>All citizens, including minorities, receive equal protection; religion is private belief, not public action </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accomodationists (nonpreferentialists) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>State should accommodate without showing a preference for one religion over another </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sharing community values determined by majority </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Establishment Rulings <ul><li>Compromise between separation and accomodation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Government cannot pass laws that affect religion unless laws have a “secular intent” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laws must have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Establishment Case </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Laws cannot foster excessive government entanglement with religion </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Free Exercise Clause <ul><li>Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When can the state regulate religion? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Americans can believe what they want, but are their actions subject to government regulation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creates a conflict between individual freedoms and social order </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Court itself goes back and forth on this issue </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Reynolds v. US (1878) <ul><ul><li>Reynolds was a Mormon in Utah Territory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Congress banned polygamy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reynolds arrested for having two wives </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Religion is not an absolute freedom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Religious acts violating criminal laws are not protected by the First Amendment </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Minersville v. Gobitis (1940) & WV State Board v. Barnette (1943) <ul><ul><li>1. Two PA children expelled for refusing to salute flag—Jehovah’s Witness religion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling 1940: Not a violation of exercise clause; state interest for national unity and national security prevails </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2. WV child expelled for refusing to salute flag, again Jehovah’s Witness </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling 1943: Yes a violation of exercise clause; individual interest prevails unless interfering with others’ freedom </li></ul>
  16. 16. Sherbert v. Verner (1963) <ul><ul><li>Sherbert was a Seventh Day Adventist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refused to work on Saturdays at present job or any other job—fired </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sherbert won </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government cannot place major burden on a person for religion without a “compelling interest” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Employment Division v. Smith (1991) <ul><ul><li>Native Americans fired for using peyote as part of worship service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Denied unemployment since firing was for illegal act </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Criminal law was broken so compelling interest test didn’t apply </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up to state government (Oregon) to make an exception for use of religious peyote </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (1993) <ul><li>Strong public opinion against Smith ruling </li></ul><ul><li>Congress prompted to act </li></ul><ul><li>Religious groups and civil liberty advocates supported </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reinstated Sherbert Test, overturning laws if “religious exercise is substantially burdened” </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Boerne v. Flores (1997) <ul><ul><li>Church in Boerne, TX wants to rebuild a larger church </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>City claimed church was historical landmark, must be preserved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Church argued City was violating RFRA </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Ruling: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Congress overstepped in passing RFRA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Too limiting for state and local governments (federalism) </li></ul></ul>