When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, it was not a religious document, but rather a secular one, in the sense that it applied to all people.
Its language and principles forbade the government from forcing religion upon anyone, but allowed it to be practiced privately and with the free exercise of religion.
In fact, the Constitution itself was a constitutional declaration of religious tolerance.
Since then, the concept of religious neutrality has become an increasingly important part of the American fabric.
While religious neutrality is not a perfect concept, its meaning has remained fairly consistent throughout the years.
Religious neutrality means that religious people have the same rights and obligations as everyone else, regardless of their religion.
This concept was enshrined into the Constitution’s text with the passage of the First Amendment.
In this article, we will explore the history and meaning of religious accommodation.
The First Amendment, Religious Exemption Article The First Congress, in 1789, adopted a resolution to clarify the meaning of “religious tolerance” in the Constitution.
The resolution explicitly declared that the government may not impose religious observance on any person or entity.
It also reaffirmed that all citizens have the right to freedom of worship and practice.
Congress, however, was not concerned with protecting the rights of any particular religion.
Instead, Congress was concerned with upholding the principles of the founding documents.
This was because the framers of the Constitution, and later, the Supreme Court, recognized that a “government which treats religion as a state subject” was inherently oppressive.
This view has been reinforced by subsequent Supreme Court decisions, such as United States v.
Smith, which invalidated a law mandating that all public school teachers recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Congress could not, therefore, rely on the First Congress’s resolution to protect the rights that it had declared in the Declaration of Independence.
The Second Congress, convened in 1792, reaffirmed the principle of religious toleration, reaffirming that “all persons are entitled to their own religious opinion and belief.”
This was also reflected in the First and Second Amendments, which both provided that Congress may not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In 1799, Congress passed the First Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provided that the Congress could only regulate practices and objects that were “established and maintained by or on behalf of the religious organizations concerned.”
The Act further limited the power of the federal government to prohibit “any religious exercises” to the extent necessary to “protect the public health and welfare.”
Congress also limited the authority of the state governments to enact laws that would “denial of equal protection.”
The First Religious Liberty Restoration Act of 1799 The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, drafted by John Adams in 1788, also established that Congress could regulate religious activities and objects.
But the Second Amendment, like the First, explicitly limited the government’s power to regulate those practices and items.
Congress was prohibited from imposing a “public nuisance” on the people.
The Act, however — and specifically, Section 2 of the act — did not address the constitutional issue of religious discrimination.
In order to protect religious freedom, Congress, unlike the First Amendments, limited its authority to regulate “only those religious exercises, associations, or practices of religion for which no public nuisance exists.”
In addition, Congress explicitly prohibited the government to “denying the equal treatment of any person, in any form, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, or of the sex.”
The law also explicitly prohibited federal courts from interpreting the Second Amendments or the First.
The Federalist Papers, the earliest source of the Second and First Amendments — the writings of George Mason, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay — supported this approach.
The Supreme Court later ruled in 1791 that the Constitution does not guarantee religious equality under the law, and that it “does not contemplate a government imposing an obligation to enforce religious discrimination on the ground of race or sex.”
In response to this ruling, the House of Representatives passed the Religious Liberty Act of 1801.
This bill prohibited the federal and state governments from “denouncing the equal and equal treatment enjoyed by any person on account, of race and sex, on any subject of law or policy.”
The bill also prohibited the Federal government from “adhering to any law, regulation, or order of any state or local government,” and from “further burdening the right of any religious exercise.”
Section 2 also protected religious minorities from discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, race, or age.
However, it did not prohibit state governments, or the federal courts, from interpreting laws and regulations that would impose a state religion or otherwise interfere with the rights protected by the First or Second Amendments.
Religious Exclusion in the 20th Century This religious exclusion theory is important to understand because it sheds light on how the Supreme Courts and the framer of the