The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

Freedom of Religion

Summary: Free Exercise Clause

Government, whether state or federal, cannot discriminate against a religion. Even when government acts in a way that is neutral and generally applicable, a person may get a religious accommodation—an exception—if he or she can demonstrate that the government is infringing upon his or her right to freely practice religion. It is relatively hard to get an accommodation from a state government based upon the Free Exercise Clause because states are subject to the Smith test, which upholds neutral laws of general applicability. It is relatively easy to get such an accommodation from the federal government, which must satisfy the strict scrutiny test mandated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by showing that its actions are necessary to achieve a compelling purpose. Land use and prison cases are also subject to strict scrutiny pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.