Government-Supported Religion

Religious Privilege and Public Health

To contain the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, governors across the country issued public health orders to restrict religious as well as secular gatherings. That’s because COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate; the deadly virus spreads equally at both. Nine out of ten Americans who attend religious services supported measures to protect public health during the pandemic. But religious extremists took governors to court in dozens of states, claiming that these orders violated the First Amendment.

While each case is unique, there is no constitutional right to religious exemptions from public-health measures that apply to everyone. That includes religious exemptions from vaccination requirements, given the danger unvaccinated people pose to public health.

What you need to know

What a Difference a Justice Makes

AU’s Legal Department filed 50 friend-of-the-court briefs opposing religious exemptions from COVID-19 public health orders. Courts generally agreed that the religious exemptions weren’t required. Then, Justice Amy Coney Barrett succeeded Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, spurring a radical reversal: the Court suddenly ruled to permit mass gatherings at houses of worship and endanger public health.

Faith-Based and Healthy

Americans United helped organize faith groups to oppose state legislation that would exempt houses of worship from COVID-19 emergency orders that prohibited large public gatherings. Twenty-seven religious organizations signed a letter opposing these bills.

Anti-Vax By the Numbers

A majority of people of all faiths surveyed by Pew Research Center said they would get, or already had been, vaccinated against COVID-19. White evangelicals were the least likely to get vaccinated, with 45% saying they wouldn't get the shot.

Black minister smiling
Take action

We’re pledging to keep church and state separate. Join us.

Church-state separation is the foundation of religious freedom in the United States, protecting many of our most fundamental rights: LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, inclusive public education, and more. Now, those freedoms are under threat. Join our movement and pledge to uphold church-state separation.