Online Custom «Religious Freedom» Essay Sample

Religious Freedom

The freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected issue in the United States as provided in various clauses of the First Amendment. The fight for religious freedom has been a matter of concern for the people of the US in the last few centuries. Many activists and organizations have collaboratively worked for ensuring that Americans attain religious freedom. After such a long struggle, religious freedom has been achieved and further protected. The US Constitution protects the issue of religion by the First Amendment clauses as well as Article IV relating to the prohibition on religious tests ("Constitution of the United States," n.d.). The constitutional question is highly affected by various aspects such as federalism, civil rights, and civil liberties. All these factors have both negatively and positively affected religious freedom in the US. The impacts of these aspects on religious freedom are explicitly shown in the US. The paper explores this topic by giving examples of the implications of federalism, civil rights, and civil liberties for religious freedom.

Over an extended period, religious freedom in the US has been threatened by various aspects. The threat emanates from the relationship between state and church. The US Constitution applies classical liberalism in trying to find a resolution that leads to religious freedom. It utilizes the opportunity of the absence of an official or established religion together with the citizens' freedom to choose and follow their own faith. As opposed to other nations in Europe where the local religion acts as a basis for an effective monopoly, the American system provides an entirely competitive religious marketplace. Americans have to make a choice on a variety of competing denominations. Therefore, with this kind of system America should fully embrace the environment of religious freedom that allows each and every resident to enjoy the right of worship (Azurmendi, 2013).

Federalism

Federalism is the main component of the American constitutional government. The United States' Constitution is based on the division of power between state and national governments. This kind of system unites the Americans as a nation, as well as protects freedoms of each and every citizen as a member of a given state. As per views of Americans, federalism is a good political system that highly values their position in the society. It offers them an opportunity to utilize available resources equally. The system contributes much to various issues in America, including religious freedom. For the years of its operation, federalism has had a significant impact on religious freedom. Like any other system, federalism affects religious freedom positively and sometimes negatively. In some occasions, federalism promotes religious freedom in the US, while in others highly limiting it.

During the history of the United States, many cases regarding religious freedom has been subjected to various federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court and the tribunal of appeal. There have been occasions when higher rank courts supported the federal courts' decisions and when they opposed the decisions and offered the direct opposite. This is a clear indication that freedom of religion is not unified as a result of federalism. The presence of federalism highly varies the results of religious freedom from one state to another. Besides, most states have legislated policies that emphasize the significance of achieving religious freedom and protecting it. This is a good advancement as far as freedom of religion is concerned. Therefore, federalism, which is a constitutionally embraced system, is of great importance for achievement or failure of religious liberty in the US (Azurmendi, 2013).

Positive Impact

Federalism is a catalyst for the attainment of religious freedom in most countries. Now that federalism entails a society whereby a group of various states that have a central government has independence in making crucial decisions, most states have adopted various acts that have propelled the Congress to consider the issue and protect it under the Constitution. For instance, the First Amendment of the United States that is as a result of a federal process clearly protects each and every individual to practice their own religion as well as separates the church from the state. Besides, the Establishment Clause restricts the government from promoting religion. The separation of the state from the church is a great advancement towards religious freedom. This is because the government is not able to undermine freedoms of other individuals through enforcement of unsuitable laws. Therefore, pressure from various federal states has highly influenced legislation of principal acts regarding religious freedom (Sehat, 2011).

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case is a real-world example of religious freedom whereby federalism is considered to promote religious freedom in the society. The case involves the Green family that owns and manages Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which is a national art chain with around five hundred stores and more than thirteen thousand workers. The family operates the company under biblical precepts whereby the use of contraceptives is not moral; hence, it is not catered for by the firm employees' health plan. In 2012, a representative sued the company's officials, challenging the contraceptives requirement and arguing that the First Amendment had been violated. The district courts and the Supreme Court objected the claim. The court of appeal provided its judgment by terming a company as a legal person that had religious freedom. The case clearly depicts the contributions of federations through judgment offered by different levels of courts to religious liberty in the US.

Negative Impact

However, federalism sometimes acts as a barrier to the interpretation of general laws protecting religious freedom. The presence of many states in the US with various federal courts has acted as a barrier to efficient administration of legislation defending the issue. Various courts interpret the issue of religious freedom and operate in a different manner, whereby any slight misinterpretation of the laws significantly hinders attainment of religious freedom (Azurmendi, 2013). Besides, some states that are committed to ensuring that religious freedom is attained have adopted crucial acts protecting the constitutional issue, whereas others have not, thereby offering a mixed reaction nationally. As a result, the issue of religious freedom is undermined in the sense tht courts consider such issues differently. 

For example, the Supreme Court's ruling of 1997 regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) significantly suppressed religious freedom. The legislation is a federal law that protects religious interests of the Americans. The act was enacted through the initiation of federal governments to promote religious freedom. Contrary to the expectation of many, the Supreme Court ruled that the act was unconstitutional, thereby putting religious freedom in jeopardy. The ruling impacted complete achievement of religious freedom as the law that was meant to protect it was nullified. As far as there were expectations of such a decision, the legislators could have developed another act to protect religious freedom. However, later the law was reinstated and is in operation nowadays after undergoing various changes. This clearly indicates that federalism negatively affects religious freedom in the United States to some extent.

Civil Rights

A civil right can be described as an enforceable privilege that, if interfered with by another individual, leads to an injury action. The most common civil rights include freedom of assembly, press, speech, the right to vote, and freedom to involuntary servitude among others. Whenever someone is denied such freedoms due to their class or group, the case is identified as discrimination. Hence, various legislations are put in place to prevent individuals from discrimination based on various aspects such as religion. Besides, there are various laws that negatively contribute to religious freedom as a right to be enjoyed by Americans. For individuals to achieve religious freedom, civil rights act on the basis of their arguments. Individuals require freedom of speech for them to air their grievances regarding religious freedom. The study clearly indicates that civil rights have great implications for religious freedom in the US (Sehat, 2011).

As a generalized rule, the government protects civil rights of its citizens. It offers room for religious individuals and institutions to carry out freely and in an open manner without any interference unless the activity undermines the rights of other individuals. The civic duty of every individual to uphold religious freedom for all individuals in the society constitutes good citizenship. Religion interests are protected in the nation through each group or person taking responsibility to guard not only their civic rights, but also those of their colleagues, including those that they deeply disagree with. Respect for other people's rights is not considered as indifference to theology, but rather a civic virtue that is critical in maintaining peace in the society, as well as promoting religious freedom among worshipers.

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Positive Impact

Civil rights have been of great importance to religious liberty in the sense that they provide a basis through which individuals enjoy the freedom of religion. Civil rights provide many Americans with an opportunity to question the authorities on the need to have religious freedom. The fight to achieve religious liberty in the US has been closely aligned with various civil rights movements. For instance, it is through the American’s right to speech that each and every citizen has powers of fighting for religious freedom. Without the current civil rights, individuals cannot be able to achieve religious freedom. A proper utilization of all the civil rights of individuals with the aim of attaining religious freedom is required for achievement of the major goals. Therefore, the civil rights are critical components that facilitate the achievement of religious freedom in the US.

For example, the First Amendment provides a basis through which individuals can enjoy the freedom of religion. The amendment contains a set of rights that all together promote religious freedom. It outlines that each and every individual has a right to freedom of religion as well as freedom of expression from the interference of the government. This implies that Americans have the rights to freedom of assembly, speech, and press in regard to religion. Therefore, by making proper use of these rights, the Americans are likely to attain fully religious freedom. A close interpretation of the amendment clearly reveals that civil rights are crucial elements of attaining religious freedom in the society. With all these rights and due protection by the Constitution, the Americans are in a position of enjoying the freedom of religion.

Negative Impact

Civil rights have also led to difficulties in implementation of the religious freedom acts. As individuals in the society are entitled to various rights, they have various limitations to the constitutional issue of religious freedom. Individuals limit the interpretation of the religious freedom acts. Individuals from different types of religions suffer discrimination as a result of their religious beliefs. In the last few decades, various interested parties have been fighting with the aim of limiting free religious expression and further undermine the separation of the church and state. For example, in the process of utilizing their rights of speech, most individuals have different views on the issue that highly differs thereby being hard for finding the way forward (West, 2015).

The Supreme Court's ruling concerning civil rights has been of great impact on religious freedom. For instance, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Oregon vs. Smith was considered as an infringement of the American civil rights that highly assaulted religious freedom by expanding the ability of the government to enforce various laws in such a way that they undermine civil rights. In the ruling, various states and localities could no longer depict a compelling interest in justifying general laws, a step that negatively affected religious freedom. The court asserted that the state has the authority of denying unemployment benefits to an individual fired as a result of violating the states’ restriction on the use of certain drugs despite being part of a religious ritual. The ruling was attacked by various representatives who argued that the infringement of American’s civil rights could most probably affect religious freedom in the nation.

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties refer to personal freedoms that the government cannot curtail either by a judicial procedure or through law. In other words, civil liberties entail protection of individuals agaainst government actions. According to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, American citizens have the right to engage in any religion that they are comfortable with. Therefore, the government cannot in any manner interfere with the citizens' worship freedom. Hence, the First Amendment provides individuals with liberty from government actions. Freedom of speech, assembly, press and religion are among the civil liberties provided by the American Constitution. Each and every citizen should benefit from such civil liberties. Upon considering the First Amendment, it is evident that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion through two clauses. The Establishment clause restricts the US government from enacting various laws to develop an official religion for the nation or to act in a manner that is likely to prefer one religion over the other (Mahmood, 2013).

Positive Impact

Civil liberties promote attainment of religious freedom in the US. Through the protections offered by the First Amendment, Americans can carry out their religious masses without the intervention of the government. The Constitution offers various guidelines that prohibit the government from making changes that are likely to suppress religious freedom in the nation. For instance, the Supreme Court demands that the government provides substantial justification before interfering with the right of free speech in an attempt to regulate the speech's content. Moreover, the Constitution is well-legislated and equipped with a variety of courts for interpretation purposes. The courts also serve as mediation agents whereby they solve any misunderstanding that may occur between individuals and the government concerning various civil liberties. The argument clearly depicts that citizens are protected when making speeches at religious meetings without the interference of the government, thereby enhancing religious freedom.

With account for the fact that religious functions involve a large number of individuals, the Americans should be at liberty of holding religious meetings. Provisions of the First Amendment on freedom of press and expression offer individuals an opportunity to express themselves through publications and assemble peacefully. Besides, under the right to association, the government is prohibited from forcing a group to disclose its members. The presence of these civil liberties in the United States has led to the achievement of religious freedom in the US. The protection of citizens by the Constitution against the government's actions greatly enhances the achievement of religious freedom in the nation (Mahmood, 2013).

For example, there was Muslim prisoner Abdul Muhammad who fought to hold short beards. The prisoner at Arkansas was not allowed to grow a half-inch beard as per his religion despite the fact that Arkansas allowed beards for other reasons. According to the religious freedom clauses, individuals should be allowed to hold their beliefs regarding their religions. According to the First Amendment, Abdul was liable to hold such beard as it was for the adherence with his religion. Later, Abdul filed a suit, which he won in the Supreme Court. The prisoner was able to win the case due to the civil liberties provided under the Bill of Rights. Winning in such a case is a move towards religious freedom.

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Negative Impact

Sometimes, civil liberty makes individuals act awkwardly as they feel protected, thereby undermining the attainment of religious freedom. There are some situations that require the government to ignore a civil liberty and consider the interest of the community. However, due to constitutional restrictions the government is forced to respect the civil liberty, which ends up negatively affecting a lot of individuals or even limiting religious freedom. For instance, in situations when terrorism is linked up with a given religion, religious freedom may be granted despite the fact that a lot of people may be affected. It is argued that it is for the safety of the society that individuals should be deprived of such rights. The government should instead ignore people's liberty and act in a manner that is likely to save individuals (Gastil, 1985).

Moreover, as most individuals are aware of civil liberties, they sometimes act in a manner that provokes the authorities. They tend to demonstrate that they are protected by the Constitution, thereby humiliating the government. In such cases, the government may end up taking various steps that seem to undermine religious freedom. However, in some cases the government is totally restricted from acting, thereby resulting in the occurrence of a certain issue that could have been avoided. Therefore, despite civil liberties being useful in enhancing religious freedom, they can also limit various values of religion.

An example is the case of 40 Chicago churches. The churches were operating in commercial and business areas where they were supposed to obtain a permit from the state. However, the churches sued the government under the RFRA arguing that the permit process was expensive, complicated, and driven by politics. The tribunal of appeal ruled in favor of the government, terming their claims as insubstantial. It is obvious that there is religious freedom in America, but there are some situations that require individuals to compromise. Setting 40 churches in commercial and business buildings in the name of religious freedom would be a big loss to the state government as it requires collecting levies to provide for the demands of citizens.

Conclusion

Religious freedom is a critical issue in the society that obtains protection from the Constitution. The freedom of religion is a constitutionally protected issue in the United States as provided in various clauses of the First Amendment. With account for the history of the US, it is obvious that the struggle for religious freedom has been an emerging concern during the last centuries. With the current advancement, it is evident that federalism, civil rights, and civil liberties have great impact on religious freedom. The three aspects are the basis of religious freedom through guidance and protection from the First Amendment clauses as well as Article IV relating to prohibition on religious tests. Upon considering both positive and negative impacts of federalism, civil rights, and civil liberty, it may be concluded that, despite having some drawbacks, the three factors are of great significance for the achievement and maintenance of religious freedom in the US and the world as a whole.

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