The history of religion in the United States begins more than a hundred years ago before the British colonies became the United States of America. There was religious discrimination and persecution in Europe. Many men and women left Europe due to this reason. They settled and formed many colonies in North America, which eventfully became the United States. There were few religious practices and emphasis on religious conformism that few colonies could not accept. Hence, they broke and moved out to form new colonies. Roger Williams was a Puritan clergyman. Since he did not accept the laws and clauses of the colonial Government, he was sent out of Massachusetts. This led him to form the colony of Rhode Island. He recognized the need and laid down the principles of separation of church and state. He emphasized that there should be religious freedom and tolerance for all individuals. Religious discrimination was a part that could not be tolerated in American history. The beliefs and practices of Native Americans were considered to be superstitious. The settlers originally established thirteen colonies to practice the religion of their choice. The American Revolutionary War’s Constitution established rules and provisions protecting moral freedom and separation of religion and state.
State Constitutions and Laws Relating to Religion
The United States Constitution guaranteed religious rights through the First Amendment. Under the First Amendment, it was established that:
Congress shall respect no particular religion, and no law shall be passed supporting any law.
Congress shall not prohibit the practice and observance of any religion.
Congress shall not slash, abridge or cut the freedom of speech of any individual.
Congress shall not slash, abridge or cut the freedom of speech of any media or press.
Congress shall not control and lay laws against the right of the people to gather for religious meetings.
Congress shall not make any law and appeal to the Government for compensation of criticisms and grievances.
The First Amendment was made applicable to be followed by all states. Variation in religious freedom guaranteed by the Federal Government and state was removed. Most of the states had the freedom of religion written down in their Constitution. There were cultural reasons variations in these rights in the historical past on the legal consequences. Hence, the laws and clauses related to freedom of religion were established by the states. “Individual freedom” refers to an individual’s right to combine religions, change religions, or abandon a religion entirely. Religious freedom comes from two clauses: i. Establishment clause – No official religion will be chosen and supported by the Government, and ii. Free exercise clause – On any religious practices of any individual cannot be interfered by the Government.
The Fourteenth Amendment
The United States Constitution passed the Fourteenth Amendment as an assurance to religious civil rights. This amendment forbids prejudice and discrimination based on religion, followed by any individual. These clauses relating to “the equal protection of the laws” for every individual were laid down. This amendment protected the rights of the former slaves and freed the blacks. In addition, it provided a constitutional position to the black freedmen. The main clauses include the below and were differentiated as Due process clause – Every citizen has the right to treat fairly, Equal protection clause – All citizens must be treated equally, Incorporation clause – Bill of Rights, Citizenship clause – Defines as to who is a U.S. citizen.
Defined as to who is a U.S. citizen.
Emphasized that the state cannot deny the rights of the individuals listed in the Bill of Rights.
Any individual born in the United States is subject to the jurisdiction and complies with it.
Any state laws cannot condense the privileges of the citizens.
Any legislation that restrict people’ immunities cannot be enforced by the state.
The state cannot take a person’s life without following legal procedures.
The state cannot deny liberty to any individual.
The state cannot take away the property of the individual without legal proceedings.
The protection of the law should be equally provided to all individual citizens of the United States.
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