Freedom of Religion: Crash Course Government and Politics #24
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Freedom of Religion: Crash Course Government and Politics #24


Hi, I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course
Government and Politics, and I’m excited. I’m excited because today, we start delving
into Supreme Court jurisprudence, with the totally controversial topic of freedom of
religion. Now, other than being fun to say, jurisprudence means all the important cases
on a particular topic, but unfortunately, I’m only going to be talking about a couple
of them, because they demonstrate how the Supreme Court reasons its way through a tricky
issue. Jurisprudence. Jurisprudence. [Theme Music] So the Constitution deals with religion right
there in the First Amendment, which is also the one that deals with speech and the press
and assembly and petitions. Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s the first
clause in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, so it’s pretty darn important.
Notice it has two parts, and each one creates a separate religious liberty or freedom. The
first part, “no law respecting an establishment of religion” is caused the establishment clause;
can you guess what the second religious liberty is? If you said free exercise, you’re right.
What do these two freedoms mean, though? Establishment of religion means that the US
can’t create an official state church, like England has with the church of England. This
means that the First Amendment ensures that the US does not have any state endorsed religion nor does it
write its laws based on any religious edicts, and it’s also the clause in the Constitution that deals with religious
monuments and school prayers and stuff like that. The free exercise clause in a way is more
straightforward, it means you can’t pay for exercise. Gym memberships are illegal. But freedom
isn’t free. You’re gonna pay with pain! No pain, no gain. Actually, none of
that is what we’re talking about. What it means is you can’t be prohibited from being
part of a certain religion, although it doesn’t mean that any religious practice is okay.
For example, if your religion requires human sacrifice, because you’re an Aztec, state,
local, and federal law could prevent you from practicing that aspect of religion, for obvious
reasons, although it couldn’t prevent you from believing that human sacrifices were
necessary to make the sun rise every day. We are gonna anger a lot of Aztecs with this
video, Stan. There are a number of cases that establish
this distinction between religious belief and religious practice, but my personal favorite
is Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye vs. Hialeah, because I love saying Lukumi Babalu Aye. You
probably figured out that what these two clauses mean in practice has been determined to some
degree by Supreme Court decisions. There’s a bunch of them, but probably the most important
one is called Lemon v. Kurtzman, from 1971. Right off the bat, the Lemon decision is a
little complicated because it combines two sets of facts, although they both involve
public money and parochial schools. In one case in Rhode Island, the state was using
taxpayer funds to pay teachers in parochial schools in an effort to educate Rhode Island
children, which is generally a good goal. In the other case in Pennsylvania, the state
was paying teachers in private schools to provide secular education services, but enough
with the set-up, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. The Supreme Court in Lemon vs. Kurtzman devised
a three prong test to see if the state law violates the First Amendment religious freedom
clauses. Under the first prong, the Court looks to see whether the law in question has
a secular legislative purpose. In this case, the purpose of the law was educating children,
which you remember, is one of the powers reserved to the states, and for the most part, is a
secular purpose. Under the second prong, the Court examines
whether or not the law’s principal or primary effect neither enhances nor inhibits religion.
Here again, the Court found that paying private school teachers or using private school facilities
did not necessarily promote religion or prevent students from worshipping as they wanted to. The third prong requires that the law under
consideration does not create excessive entanglement between a church and the state. This is the
one where both the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania laws got into trouble. In Rhode Island, the
school buildings where the children were learning were full of religious imagery, and 2/3 of
the teachers were nuns. The Court paid close attention the fact that the people involved
were kids, ruling, “This process of inculcating religious doctrine is, of course, enhanced
by the impressionable age of the pupils in primary schools particularly. In short, parochial
schools involve substantial religious activity and purpose.” In Pennsylvania, the problem
was different. The Court ruled that in order to make sure that the teachers were NOT teaching
religion, the state would have to monitor them so closely that it would be excessive
entanglement and give the state way too much control. They ruled that, “The very restrictions
in surveillance necessary to ensure that teachers play a strictly non-ideological role give
rise to entanglements between church and state.” Thanks, Thought Bubble. So it’s pretty complicated,
and I’m not 100% sure that I find it convincing. First of all, the Justices engaged in some slippery
slope reasoning about the Pennsylvania case. The Court argued that even if, in this situation,
the secular purpose was a good one, there’s a tendency for states to take more and more
power for themselves. But my bigger concern is that all three prongs in this case were
given equal weight, and I’m not sure that they always should be. I mean, you got the
one round one and then the two like, you know, long ones, and you can pull that round one,
it’s just for grounding. What the ruling in this case meant was that
the secular purpose, educating children, was not gonna happen, or at least would be made
more difficult. Also, you could argue that it was kind of paternalistic, assuming that
kids wouldn’t be able to block out religious imagery, but since they are kids, maybe a little
paternalism is okay. You spit that gum out, Junior. So Lemon vs. Kurtzman built on an earlier
case, Engel vs. Vitale, which ruled that prayer in schools violated religious freedom. You
would think that, taken together, this issue would be pretty much put to bed, yet every
few years, a case comes along involving prayer in school, and now they apply the old three
prong Lemon test. For example, one state adopted a statute mandating a moment of silence at
the beginning of each school day. One of the purposes of this statute is to provide students
with an opportunity to pray in school. Another purpose is to create a calming atmosphere
in the classroom to better promote learning. The first purpose doesn’t look so secular,
and as for the second prong, doesn’t necessarily advance or inhibit a particular religion.
Students can choose not to pray at all. Is this excessive entanglement? That’s always
gonna be difficult to say, especially since ‘excessive’ is pretty subjective, but if you
go on the standard of the Pennsylvania case in Lemon, almost any religious practice in
school could be excessively entangling, because the state is going to have to step in and
monitor it. Some school systems have tried to get around
this by having the prayers led by students, because they aren’t agents of the state. But
then you have the issue of how much a student-led prayer is really led by a student, and how
do you find out without more monitoring and more state entanglement? The Lemon test is
an attempt by the Court to set up a framework for analyzing future situations where religion
and the state might get mixed up. It’s probably better than having what legal scholars like
to call “a bright line rule” about religion in public spaces like schools and courthouses,
but it does leave a lot of wiggle room and it seems that it encourages future cases because
we keep seeing them. The funny thing is, religious freedom is one of the less controversial protections
found in the First Amendment, if you don’t believe me, wait until our next episode on
free speech. Just wait. You just — you just wait. Did you guys hear what he said? See
ya next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity.
Learn more about their mission and initiatives at voqal.org. Crash Course was made with the
help of all these jurisprudences, am I using that word right? Thanks for watching.

100 Comments

  • Andrew Baker

    You already have "Freedom from Religion."

    The US Constitution CLEARLY states, I the First Amendment, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Why are you fighting for something you already have? Gay marriage is legal, and so is abortion. So why do you keep fighting?

  • VodShod

    I wish this covered whether or not it is covered for people to use their religion to take away other peoples' freedoms. Such as refusing to give a person emergency care because the person dying is gay.

  • Storm ise Champ

    Freedom of Religion" this is nonsense. True is there are only one true God Creator of earth and everything above earth , father of Jesus Christ and God that gived the law to Moses that appear only in the Bible; God and his kingdom of Heavens are in LIGHT inside creation and Satan and others angels that sinned are in DARKNESS . TRUE history of religions in humanity are: humans made Paintings, sculptures, fictitious names in gods that are not living beings, also there are cases of idols that Humans worship pictures of dead people, Humans made idols based in VANITIES that are not gods , HUMANS workship their passions like their (Ideas or some vanities) . A passion is not a faith. in conclusion Humans are makers of things that are not gods and Humanity are foolish

  • Diane Koury

    Your info is great…especially for those who already know the material. I would use your series more if you would speak slower….I teach high school and kids that have never learned this and they need to have lessons explained using slower speech.

  • Shawn Esmeralda

    If we have freedom of religion. Why is there a One Nation under GOD. I mean the American government was supposed to be secular. That's why the came here on the first place. Don't Bash you mindless arguers

  • Michael Halford

    The first part of the First Amendment doesn't make sense to me. As it is self defeating. Because the band on establishing any religion actually establishes an atheistic ideology.

  • Farook Omar

    you don't choose your family or gender but you can choose your religion
    islam its final one
    if don't have it you can married with your sister

  • Wibi Lungidradityo

    One thing that bothers me is Secular law that crashed with tradition and religious culture of a society. Personally I do agree and support the separation of religion and state business. But I cant deny the influence of religious tradition and their ideology.

    I live in Indonesia where religion have a pretty solid influence in shaping the standard value and morality of society. Even in "PUBLIC" school, ( I repeat again : Public = state funded) religious practice of "one" religion are somewhat "enforced", even to those who had different religion.

    Before we began our learning session, we usually start a prayer (majority here is Moslem) by reading the Qur'an. And those with different religion are Relocated to the main hall of school ( quite funny. Since Catholics, Protestant, Hindu and the Buddhist are mixed in the same room).

    Lately in university, I realized the discrimination of religious practice and beliefs that had been done in my years of learning during High school. Believe it or not, the reproduction of knowledge that mixed with religious zeal are somewhat, dangerous. because of this close relations between religious value in school, political knowledge and doctrines are easy to penetrate the school (Islamic-political ideology).

    Religious school organizations are familiar with the association of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanul-Muslimin, the movement that originated from the… I dont know, Middle east? Egypt? I think its Egypt) and that affects the political beliefs of modern day youth.

    Everyday, in university, I faced off politically with those youth movement that support the founding of Islamic States. Not to mention this ideal are against my country constitution that there can no be tirany of the majority ( Unity in diversity).

    Modern day politician seems didnt realize the danger of using religion as political platform to indoctrinate its subject. In this case, is for Indonesia

  • Snoopy Pingas

    Freedom of religion? How can you have freedom of something that's oppressive in nature? Should be freedom off religion.

  • Peter Jin

    I have a question. I am a student studying the US law. I was wondering where do you get all these information? Also, I really want to study deeply into this field. I just don't know where to start. What books should I read, or study? Could you give me any advice on that? Thank you~

  • Asthens Beech

    so the clause religion/? means this is not a Christian nation but Christian were here. "in god we trust" on money could mean wealth is your master or we really worshiop Or and his wife of silver sea on another planet

  • susan smith

    Public Bill 102-14 has completely overridden anything we consider as our First Amendment Freedom of Religion. Nobody challenges it. This is evidence of the Tyranny in our Government and Laws.

  • Mafic

    I'm a middle schooler and I just wanted to say Thank you for making lessons fun-ish. Well, it's a heck lot more interesting than my teacher.

  • Marky Mark

    Catholics, evangelicals, protestants, baptist,Jewish, Islam all need to keep their butts out of goverments..they are all political Prostitutes!!

  • Marky Mark

    Almighty God is my God, his son Jesus is my king and my goverment..i don't worship or put IMPERFECT mankind governments before God's laws and Jesus kingship !!

  • Justin Letchford

    Being Catholic myself, I'm dissatisfied with religious education in schools particularly here in Australia and this video has given me a new perspective. I think religious education should be allowed even as a full subject in schools but instead treated as an elective subject with no effect on a student's grade.

  • reba kows

    freedom of religion must include the right to NOT believe in any religion….. as an atheist I get told over and over how bad of a person I am (volunteer 30+ hours a week) and "you'll be sorry" I'm not sorry for not buying the religious BS I'm not brainwashed….

  • Lane Mohedano

    The only thing missing in this video was addressing how this works on the national level like Congress and what not. The Moto "In God we trust" is something that I've always wondered how it was allowed to be there if you can't basically have an endorsement

  • Mista and Misz

    it'a 2018, just put cameras in schools. It's cheap now. Plus the cameras can help with bullying/stalking/violence; forced indoctrination, teacher abuse, and theft. It's a win-win.

  • Vic 2.0

    +Mercurial Silver "I didn’t make the claim that there is no god or gods"
    You said and I'll quote "Anti-theism is pro-reality." If opposing theism is standing up for reality, then that must mean you're claiming theism is not real (i.e., false).

    "just that I lack a belief in those baseless claims."

    Actually, there are good arguments in favor of theism (William Lane Craig has presented a few that have yet to be refuted). But apart from that, most Christians believe on the basis of alleged personal experiences, and while they're not enough to convince us to believe, they're enough to show that theism isn't necessarily unfounded.

    "Sorry, but snakes and donkeys don’t talk"

    Hence the significance of them being in the bible story. If it were to happen, that would be quite miraculous. Neverminding that Christians aren't obligated to believe in biblical inerrancy/literalism, the claim isn't that snakes and donkeys talked naturally but that they talked via supernatural means. And on that point, all we can do is be skeptical, not say it didn't happen.

    "and the Earth is older than 6000 years old."

    Nor does the bible say that it isn't. And again, Christians do not necessarily hold to biblical inerrancy/literalism.

    "And yeah, it would be great if Christians embraced the nicer part of the Bible, but here in the USA Christians embrace the uglier and crazier interpretations and expressions of their “faith.”"

    I think this is nothing more than an appeal to the availability heuristic. Because examples of religious extremism are so vivid and readily accessible in the mind, you think it's in some way a common result of religion/theism. But of course, that isn't reality (what you claim to care about). The vast majority of Christians seem like decent, civil people to me. By contrast, anti-theists are not generally decent. They (you?) oppose theism without being able to show that it is false or harmful in and of itself.

  • Cole Wilson

    I had a teacher in 6th grade who said on multiple occasions about how she hopes all her students are Christian and Muslims believe they go to heaven if they kill people

  • Khepri Neteru

    Freedom of religion is more of a privilege to Abrahamic religions. Hence Native Americans and Africans religions were demonize

  • Enzo Lupert

    The state should just limits itself to do what they know how to do bad: healthcare, education, safety, justice and infrastructure. Period.

  • Paul-Octave Hébert

    What I would love to see is the bright line rule talk about atheistic or agnostic teaching in school. Like should my kid be taught that ideology as well? I mean it can work both ways under a non-ideological standpoint that Lemon discusses. Overall, I love that we have no state church in America and we shouldn't.

  • MATHIS R.

    I'm Christian. And I agree. After all, this is what our Founding Fathers had established since the beginning and it still stands in our Constitution.
    In America, not everyone shares the same religious beliefs. You know why? Its the old, white men who blur the lines.

    Religious Conservatives banning contraceptions and abortion… ( the Old and New Testament does not rail against abortion like people do today. We hyperextended that belief ). God doesn't hate gays🏳️‍🌈, God doesn't hate those who perform abortions…If you believe, God wants us to use love. There is no love in institutionalizing racist, misogynistic, homophobic, islamophobic, and xenophobic rhetoric in our country. Get it out!
    Even our Former Atty Gen Jeff Sessions justified separating children at the border, by using a passage from the Bible while representing the Justice Department…

    Religion and Politics don't mix. And its for a reason. Like if you agree.👍

  • equalism 42

    As a society we need to realize the idea of a god thing existing is flawed logic that the main faiths realized back in about the 1500's…but then covered over the details. So no unless you willing to listen to the logic then your in denial of the facts and should not be offering an opinion on religion in schools. con't

    So here is what the main faiths figured out….. I you believe in a god thing then by default it has to have created you, be all powerful, all knowing and transcend time and space. Now that means the god thing would have known when it was deciding to create you what your ultimate fate would be, ie salvation or damnation and decided to create you anyway! But that means there would be nothing you could ever choose to do that would alter your fate, in fact there would not be a dame thing you could choose to do the god thing did not know you were alreadly going to do back when it decided to create you…. That means the sense of free will you have to choose your own actions and ultimate fate cannot be anything more than a delusion of free will. And if you are living life with a delusion then you are delusional….so if you believe in a god thing you are delusional!

    One also needs to ask why a god thing makes people, so they can be filled with false hope to only watch them fail and end up in damnation as it knew they would! Is it not like children pulling the wings off a blow fly and taking joy from watching it try to fly knowing it cannot….for children we say it is childish and cruel…for a god thing I'm afraid it speaks of a serious mental issue….

    So you see the logic of a god thing was baddly thought up and it is all a load of nonsense that has gotten totally out of hand, and certainly should not be allowed near anyone under the age of consent.

  • Time_For_Toast

    All these comments on 'freedom from religion'.
    They deny the Founding Fathers, and they DENY the Bible, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg Address, and all other famous documents or letters that include even the slightest hint of 'God being Sovereign'.
    They deny all that, and say life is better without it…
    I'm gonna tell ya, that it seriously, SERIOUSLY wouldn't. Hitler wasn't Christian, Stalin wasn't Christian, Mussolini wasn't, neither Clintons, Nixon, Obama, Trump (don't know about that one, but guessing), and many others whom I have forgotten at this point in time, or don't care to think to mention.
    And don't come along with the 'well all these bad people say they were Christians' and that's the thing. They simply SAY they were Christian, and don't live it out to the truth.
    Meaning they aren't/weren't. They were false and were LYING. Don't you know that people can lie about being Christians in order to self-justify their actions, gain popularity, or feel good about themselves? Meanwhile REAL CHRISTIANS are easy to tell, because they are so hate-able, but in reality did nothing wrong and are punished without real reason.
    Fake Christians are near impossible to tell, and look like any other atheist/communist/muslim/other person.

  • A D

    IT IS NOT NORMAL THAT CITIZENS OF A SAME COUNTRY ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME LAWS… WHAT IF MY RELIGION ALLOW ME TO KILL PEOPLE, DISCRIMINATE, ALLOW INCEST OR SLAVERY? WILL I BE ALLOWED TO DO SO BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM?

  • X-ians stink

    To all the christians who insist that "the U.S.A. was founded on christian principles": can you guess how many times the words "God," "Jesus," "christianity," or "bible" were mentioned in the U.S. Constitution? ZERO! Get the picture? "One nation under God" was introduced by Ike Eisenhower in 1954, please don't give me that crapola about the founding fathers being christians! They raped their own slaves.

  • folk

    ha freedom of speech yet you can LITERALLY watch endless videos on youtube of crook cops tackling citizens just bc they're video taping them

  • The Pastel Griffin

    Being a public school student that is sort of middle ground on this topic (I have grown up Episcopalian but I'm not really religious myself) I don't see the problem with religion in schools. If kids want to pray to their God(s) then I say go for it! But if don't then kids shouldn't feel pressured into religion. Let people live how they want, it's their life 🙂

  • IdleBigots

    Look how much the conservative christians and our current theocratic regime treats freedom of religion. If it's in their favor, they're all for it, but tell them they can't do something and they whine like children. It's disgusting. Christians in this country willingly put their hands on a hot stove and then blame the stove because they got burned.

  • Paulthored

    1:42 to 1:54 … Not really. Aztecs just go get an Abortion every time they need a human sacrifice.(the same as the cannibals and Satanists)
    And that is only if they aren't simply running an abortion clinic.😉

  • Han Solo

    There is Freedom of Religion in America… unless you are Christian. Liberals have bullied Americans into hating Christians.

  • Anthony Gage

    I consider freedom of religion to be an oxymoron. You are being granted freedom to subjugate yourself to a predetermined set of dogmas that will take away your ability to think freely. Religion is one worst forms of tyranny.

  • Chandra Cheng

    Well hot damn I'm FORCED to pray in my class everyday, and if i don't i WILL BE FORCED, to go to the front of the class to pray OUTLOUD. Not to seem overly exaggerating, this actually happened, and in my country its legal, and its illegal to not have a religion

  • Faith Music

    The state cannot have an antagonistic view of my children’s faith, if it is mandatory for me to pay school taxes when buying a home. Give me a refund of my school taxes if they are going to violate my children’s religious freedoms in schools that way I can use that tax money to fund a school that will uphold my child’s constitutional freedom of religion.

  • Alexander Wild

    Some schools try to sneak through it like in the case of my kids PE teacher she try to sneak in yoga and I would have none of it either my kid wasn't taking yoga or they were asked to do something else

  • TypicalFlutist

    Look at what’s happened to society and the constitution regarding this. It’s like we have freedom of religion yet they don’t allow it in schools unless it’s private because someone might just be “offended.” That is WRONG, because we have that freedom and people don’t have to believe, but if you really think about what this idea has led to, I mean, the decline in religion has corresponded with a dramatic increase in divorce, drug/substance abuse, and other grueling things that people have to deal with or are affected by. It’s only going to get worse if we keep shunting God from society. Imagine your people who know that you’re the one that created them and then just rebel against that. That’s like bullying, or isolating someone. No shame on anyone who isn’t a believer but with society as a whole, it’s the belief that we can’t publicly express religion because of opposing ideas (which oppose the constitution as well). Anyone who is atheist, you’ve probably struggled with something or maybe you just want to not, but if you turn to God and Christ things will be a lot happier because I’ve been a lot happier :). No shame though, we all have freedom of religion. Just sharing my thoughts

  • ddale20

    Religion holds a society together as long as it's not extreme. When we believe in nothing, we worship man. That leads to people like Stalin and Hitler. It's such a fine line to not push ideals on people, but a society has to have values and morals. And believe me, they can't come from man, but from a higher power. That's why the Constitution starts with 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are CREATED equal and that they are endowed by their CREATOR….can anything be more evident that they believed in a higher power?

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