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.


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

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