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Know Your Legal Rights!

Pagan anti-defamation organizations are springing up everywhere. But each individual Witch, Wiccan or Pagan should have a working knowledge of their fundamental rights and avenue to legal recourse. Here are some of the basics:

FEDERAL:

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION GUARANTEED-

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

“Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

Free exercise of religion is protected in the United States provided that the belief is sincerely held and is a religious belief of any kind. The belief or practice need not be a part of an organized religion or sect, and need not include a belief in any Supreme Deity. Individualistic, Indigenous, polytheistic, agnostic and atheistic beliefs all fall under the protection of law.

Cases:

Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 113S.Ct. 2217 (1993)

Frazee v. Illinois Dept. of Employment Security , 489 U.S. 829 (1989)

Callahan v. Woods, 658 f. 2d.679 (9th Cir. 1981)

Courts cannot judge validity of any belief or doctrine;

U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944)

Free exercise of religious belief is protected by the First Amendment from intentional encroachment under all circumstances. The government cannot single out a particular religious belief or religion for special burdens or restrictions unless it can prove a compelling reason for doing so. This “compelling reason” must be grave concerns for the social welfare of society. Even if “compelling reasons” are proven, the government still must use the least amount of encroachment possible.

Cases:

Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah (cited above)

 Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990)

 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963)

 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb (1993)

 Lawson v. Dugger, 844 F. Supp. 1538 (S.D. Fla, 1994)

The Non-Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the official sponsorship of, support of, or active involvement in, religious activity. This limits interference or undue influence by federal, state and local governments or their agents on the validity of any religious belief or religion. this recognizes the right of an individual to be free from laws and government decisions which aid one religion, all religions or prefer one religion over another.

Cases:

Walz v. Tax Commission, 397 U.S. 1 (1947)

Everson v. Board of education, 330 U.S. 1 (1047)

Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)

Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228 (1982)

FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION-

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

“No state shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Fourteenth Amendment protects against discrimination by state and local governments on the basis of religious beliefs, as well as gender or ethnicity.

Cases:

Police dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972)

Also see under RFRA 1993-

Campos v. Coughlin, 854 F. Supp. 194 (S.D.N.Y. 1994)

Western Presbyterian Church v. Board of Zoning Adjustment of District of Columbia, 849 F. Supp. 77 (D.D.C. 1994)

Additional protection is provided by-

The Civil Rights Act of 1871

1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978)

In conclusion: The United States is a multi-faith society; freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed. No religion has official support or preference from any governmental entity or any of its agents. Discrimination on the basis of religious preference is illegal.

This document does not constitute legal advice but is intended to be used in conjunction with the legal services of an attorney licensed to practice in your state. This document can be copied and distributed to your lawyer should you decide that you need the services of one

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