Learn More About Your Rights

The U.S. Constitution and other laws protect your religious freedom in many ways. Know your rights.

We advocate in and out of court to protect religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Below, you’ll find some examples of the many ways in which your religious-freedom rights can be violated. But remember, not all conduct in these categories is unlawful. And there are other kinds of conduct that violate church-state law.

Examples of Violations of Church-State Separation

Religion-based discrimination and service denials

  • A government body or government-funded entity discriminates against you based on your religious beliefs
  • A government official or government-funded entity uses religion to justify discriminating against you based on another protected characteristic, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • A private entity relies on its religious beliefs to argue that civil-rights laws don’t apply to it and that it can discriminate against you
  • A government-funded or government-regulated entity refuses to provide a particular service to you because of its religious beliefs
  • Unlawful discrimination and denials of service can occur in a wide variety of areas, including employment, education, healthcare, social services such as foster-care placement, and provision of services by businesses

Promotion of religion in the public schools

  • Prayer at public-school graduations, assemblies, athletic contests, or other events
  • Religious or religion-based instruction—such as teaching creationism or intelligent design—in public-school classes
  • Proselytization or promotion of religion by school employees
  • Graduations or other school events in houses of worship
  • Bible distributions in public-school buildings
  • Choir or music classes dominated by religious pieces

Public funding of religious activity or proselytization

  • Public funding—including through vouchers—of schools that teach religion or require students to take part in religious activities
  • Public funding of social-service providers that inject religion into their services or require service recipients to take part in religious activities
  • Public funding of construction or repairs of houses of worship
  • Favoritism of religious organizations in allocation of public funds

Improper opening prayer at meetings of governmental bodies

  • Discrimination based on religion in the selection of people to deliver opening invocations
  • Proselytizing prayers
  • Government officials coercing or pressuring audience members to take part in prayers
  • Government officials delivering prayers themselves

Government-sponsored displays of religious texts or symbols

  • Crosses
  • Ten Commandments
  • Religious holiday displays
  • Holy books or verses from scripture
  • A display is more likely to be found unconstitutional if it is newly erected or is predominantly religious

Religious coercion or favoritism in the criminal justice system

  • Requiring people in prison, on probation, or on parole to attend or reside in religious rehabilitation programs or halfway houses
  • Treating minority religions less favorably in prisons

Examples of other violations

  • Government-sponsored religious events
  • Religious messages in communications by public employees
  • Religious proselytization or coercion by public employers
  • Promotion of religion in the military
  • Requiring immigrants to take religious oaths as a condition of citizenship

Have your rights been violated?

If you think that your rights may have been violated, please fill our our reporting form so we can help you determine whether they were and what your next steps might be.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

Act Now