The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “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.” As enshrined in the First Amendment, religious freedom includes two complementary protections: the right to religious belief and expression and a guarantee that the government neither prefers religion over non-religion nor favors particular faiths over others. These dual protections work hand in hand, allowing religious liberty to thrive and safeguarding both religion and government from the undue influences of the other.
From our foundational work on behalf of conscientious objectors to our historic defense of John T. Scopes during the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925, the ACLU has been the national leader in the struggle for religious freedom. Building on that near-century of work, the ACLU employs an integrated strategy of litigation, public education, and advocacy to protect religious liberty.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Eighty-one percent of Americans say the law should not allow companies or other institutions to use religious beliefs to decide whether to offer a service to some people and not others.
3,500 groups make up the American religious landscape.
The ACLU vigorously defends the rights of all Americans, from Christians to members of minority faiths, to practice their religion.