Know Your Rights: Freedom of Religion

How well do you know the First Amendment? Our quiz series will test your knowledge on each of the five tenets of the First Amendment and challenge your assumptions about the ways the First Amendment protects human rights in the United States. This quiz covers some general information about your First Amendment protected freedom of religion.


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True or False: The establishment clause establishes the U.S. as a Christian nation.
False. The establishment clause states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. There is no official religion in the United States, and the First Amendment forbids any state, local, or federal government activity that establishes one religion as official, or favors one religion over others.
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Which founding father came up with the idea of “separation of church and state?”
Thomas Jefferson. The phrase “separation of church and state” is generally attributed to an 1802 letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut.
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True or False: A public school teacher can lead a classroom in a prayer “thanking god” as long as the prayer is non-denominational and does not favor a specific religion.

False: Public school teachers are considered state actors. Even though a prayer may seem non-denominational, it can still be construed as establishing one religion or showing preference toward a certain religion.


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True or False: The phrase “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill establishes the United States as a religious nation.
False: There have been several lawsuits throughout the years claiming that the phrase “In God We Trust” violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. U.S. Courts (notably, Aronow v. United States) have consistently ruled that the phrase is “ceremonial” or “ornamental,” that it doesn’t ask money holders or spenders to do anything religious, and that it does not establish any religious belief or obligation. Although the courts have repeatedly upheld the phrase as Constitutional, it is still a point of controversy for some First Amendment activist.
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True or False: A public school student cannot pray before lunch.
False: The First Amendment limits the government’s ability to establish a religion, or restrict the free exercise of religious beliefs. Here, the student is exercising their beliefs. This is a protected right.
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A woman gets a job at a kosher winery. Her boss tells her that she must dress according to Orthodox Jewish law while at work. She isn’t Jewish. Does this violate her First Amendment rights?
No. The winery is a private company, not the government. More importantly, rules regarding dress are an important part of keeping Kosher. If the government told the Kosher winery that they couldn’t enforce a religious dress code, then the winery would have a First Amendment claim.
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A local government office displays a statue of the Ten Commandments on the front lawn. Is this a violation of the First Amendment?

It depends, but it usually is a violation. This is a common point of conflict between local governments and First Amendment watchdog groups, and different lower courts don’t always agree. Generally, if the Ten Commandments statue is displayed inside or near a courthouse or lawmaking establishment, it is ruled unconstitutional. Sometimes courts make an exception if the statue has "historical" rather than "religious" significance. Ten Commandment statues on public property that are not near a courthouse or statehouse are often, but not always permitted. Basically, it shouldn't ever seem like religious law is influencing the legal system.

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Which belief system is not protected by the First Amendment?
All religions are protected under the First Amendment. However, newer religions sometimes face more scrutiny than established religions for First Amendment claims.
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