Civil Liberties • Freedom of Religion
Objective: : Identify how religious freedom is protected in the United States and discuss its importance.
- How have Supreme Court rulings specifically defined Americans' right to freely practice their religion?
- How have Supreme Court rulings defined the relationship between the U.S. government and religious institutions?
Notes on Implementation:
- Extend the activity by having students choose a topic related to civil liberties on which to focus their poster (e.g., freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, or the right to due process.) Students should be able to defend why this civil liberty is essential to our democracy.
- To provide additional support, have students work with a partner or in small groups. Provide definitions for the establishment clause (the national government may never found a church that it officially supports, often referred to as "separation of church and state") and the free exercise clause (which protects the right to freely exercise one's religious beliefs)
- Provide additional support by sharing these sample posters (or other posters) as examples:
Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the Civil Liberties Topic Center within the American Government database.
Freedom of religion refers to the right to freely practice and worship any religion of one's choosing. The U.S. government, according to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This means the government cannot make laws either establishing an official religion or preventing people from freely exercising their religion.
In this activity, you will design a poster defending the freedom of religion and showing how it is protected by the Constitution.
- Freedom of Religion
- The Establishment Clause
- The Free Exercise Clause
- The Supreme Court and Freedom of Religion
- WPA Four Freedoms poster (ca. 1941)
- Review the above resources to learn how freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution and the First Amendment.
- Consider the term "separation of church and state." What does that mean today?
- Look at the poster that was created in 1941 to promote four freedoms. Consider how the words and images are used to communicate a message.
- Design a poster communicating how the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of religion.
- Carefully choose images and words to communicate how freedom of religion is protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
- Use the poster to introduce viewers to both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause.
- Include at least one example of a religious practice that is protected by the First Amendment.
- Consider the use of color, layout, font, and other aspects of the design. Use the 1941 poster as a model, if desired.
- Present your poster. Explain the freedoms that are illustrated in your poster and why you chose the images, colors, and other design features used in your poster.
- Civil liberties protect against government overreach
- Civil liberties and civil rights are related but distinct and can be in conflict with each other
Possible Answers for Activity:
- The establishment clause dictates the separation of church and state; the free exercise clause specifies that the government should protect the right of people to freely exercise the rites and practices of the religion of their choice.
- Images might include photographs or drawings of people freely practicing their religion, religious symbols, and other symbols to demonstrate the separation of church and state.
- Students might choose colors, such as red, white, and blue, to appeal to patriotism.
"Freedom of Religion." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Content/2182347?cid=257. Accessed 6 Dec. 2019.