"In this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States."
Religious freedom is one of the United States’ founding principles, protected by the First Amendment and other federal laws. The right against religious discrimination is likewise one of our basic civil rights. When Congress enacted the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the height of the civil rights movement, in addition to barring discrimination based on race, national origin, and sex in a wide range of areas, it also barred discrimination based on religion.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice enforces a wide range of laws protecting religious liberty:
- laws barring discrimination based on religion in employment, public education, housing, credit, and access to public facilities and public accommodations;
- the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which bars zoning authorities from discriminating against houses of worship and religious schools;
- laws protecting the religious rights of institutionalized persons; and
- criminal statutes such as the Church Arson Prevention Act making it a federal crime to attack persons or institutions based on their religion, or otherwise interfere with religious exercise.
This website provides information about these laws, examples of the types of cases brought by the Civil Rights Division protecting against religious discrimination and preserving religious freedom, contact information for obtaining more information or filing a complaint, and literature that can be downloaded or ordered online.
Religious Freedom in Focus is a periodic email update about the Civil Rights Division's religious liberty and religious discrimination cases. To subscribe, write to firstfreedom.gov. Back issues of the newsletter may be found here.
For more information, you may contact the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination, Eric W. Treene, at (202) 353-8622 or send an email to FirstFreedom@usdoj.gov.