Religious freedom is a fundamental constitutional right in the United States. Undoubtedly, “[t]he guarantee of religious freedom to people of all faiths—and to those who profess no faith—is essential to the American ideal.”. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution safeguards religious liberty with two clauses: first, the Establishment Clause prevents local, state, or federal government from promoting any religion or advancing one type of religion over another; and second, the Free Exercise Clause protects a person’s freedom to believe in and observe their own religion as they wish.
Because of these protections, religious freedom has flourished in the United States. It has often led to religious leaders being “at the forefront of social justice movements that stood up for marginalized and oppressed people, as in the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement.”. Nonetheless, religious rationales have also been used to justify discrimination throughout United States history and are still used to this day. This begs the question: what are the limits on the freedom of religion when it intersects with other constitutional rights?