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Individual Rights

Student Rights

Teaching Rights

What are my rights to practice my religion?

Your legal right to your religious beliefs were a part of the founding of this country. It took over 200 years to get legal recognition for people of our beliefs. Reading the word of the founders of this country, it took far too long. Even in the preamble to the Constitution, we see a clear intent that all people enjoy in the freedom that this country offer.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Your right of religious freedom was guaranteed at the time of the founding of this country. Religious freedom was so important to the people founding this country, that it was the first item
that they recognized needing protection.

Amendment I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Yet, there was those who found ways around those first protections, setting up standards that were not equal to all persons of this country. Abuses happened and people wanted a way to protect
these individual freedoms that were so important to everyone in this country. So, less than 100 years after the constitution was created, the 14th amendment was added, we show it here in part:

Amendment XIV:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So, you ask, those are pretty words, but what does all that really mean?

What protection do I have?

Recently, people have begun to understand the horrors inflicted, by those in the majority, against those in the minority. Whether it be the systematic destruction of the native people of North America, the holocaust of the Hebrew people, or even the burning times of the Inquisition, people today sought to ensure that this would never happen again. They passed a law that, not only punished the ones directly responsible, but those indirectly responsible. We are given this law, passed in 1988, that punishes those who would try to eradicate a people.

Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 50A of the United States Code

Also known as the Proxmiere Act:

1091. Genocide
(a) Basic Offense. - Whoever, whether in time of peace or in time of war, in a circumstance described in subsection (d) and with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such -
(1) kills members of that group;
(2) causes serious bodily injury to members of that group;
(3) causes the permanent impairment of the mental faculties of members of the group through drugs, torture, or similar techniques;
(4) subjects the group to conditions of life that are intended to cause the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part;
(5) imposes measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
(6) transfers by force children of the group to another group; or attempts to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Punishment for Basic Offense. - The punishment for an offense under subsection (a) is -
(1) in the case of an offense under subsection (a)(1),,
(FOOTNOTE 1) where death results, by death or imprisonment for life and a fine of not more than $1,000,000, or both; and

(FOOTNOTE 1) So in original.

(2) a fine of not more than $1,000,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both, in any other case.

(c) Incitement Offense. - Whoever in a circumstance described in subsection (d) directly and publicly incites another to violate subsection (a) shall be fined not more than $500,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

(d) Required Circumstance for Offenses. - The circumstance referred to in subsections (a) and (c) is that -
(1) the offense is committed within the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101)).

(e) Nonapplicability of Certain Limitations. - Notwithstanding section 3282 of this title, in the case of an offense under subsection (a)(1), an indictment may be found, or information instituted, at any time without limitation.

What this law simply states is that a group or individual can not harm you, or your family, on the basis of your beliefs. They can not torture you. Nor can they remove your children.

We here stories of children being taken from families of religious people on the basis that their religious beliefs are "bad for the children". This is Genocide when they do this. They can not remove your children because they believe that your religion is wrong. As we have pointed out, very clearly, no religion is wrong.

"If my boss finds out, they'll fire me."

Does this sound familiar to anyone? The Civil Rights act doesn't only protect those of color, but protects those of religious beliefs as well. Taking a look at it, it's pretty bad if someone violates this particular law.

Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 13 of the United States Code

246. Deprivation of relief benefits
Whoever directly or indirectly deprives, attempts to deprive, or threatens to deprive any person of any employment, position, work, compensation, or other benefit provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress appropriating funds for work relief or relief purposes, on account of political affiliation, race, color, sex, religion, or national origin, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

The fine for this can not exceed more than $10,000. But it clearly shows that you have a right to be a religious person and hold a job, without fear of being fired, demoted, or transferred.

Next we deal with Hate Crimes. These are crimes committed, not in a genocidal manner, but in a manner that is directed to prevent you from exercising your right to free religious exercise.

Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 13 of the United States Code

247. Damage to religious property; obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs
(a) Whoever, in any of the circumstances referred to in subsection (b) of this section -
(1) intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempts to do so; or
(2) intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person's free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so; shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

(b) The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that -
(1) in committing the offense, the defendant travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses a facility or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in interstate or foreign commerce; and
(2) in the case of an offense under subsection (a)(1), the loss resulting from the defacement, damage, or destruction is more than $10,000.

(c) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be -
(1) if death results from acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death;
(2) if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both; and
(3) in any other case, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

(d) No prosecution of any offense described in this section shall be undertaken by the United States except upon the notification in writing of the Attorney General or his designee that in his judgment a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

(e) As used in this section, the term "religious property" means any church, synagogue, mosque, religious cemetery, or other religious property.

Section A tells us that we can set up our religious space and not fear of it being defaced or destroyed by persons who feel that we don't have a right to have such places. It also tells us that people who try to prevent us from doing so are also in violation of the law.

Section B gives the law interstate clout and that ability to pursue violators of this act across international borders.

Section C is penalties.

Section D is an important one. This act can only be prosecuted by the Federal Government. Your local and state authorities have no legal right to prosecute under this law. If you feel that you are a victim under this law, there is only one law enforcement agency to contact:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation.

They are the only people with the power to investigate under this law.

Section E defines what religious property is. If you have a sacred circle, standing stones, temple, sweat lodge, or other property that you use for your religious exercises, those area are protected under this law as well.

It is our hope that this gives you some idea of the rights you have for your religious freedom.
  In this section we look at the rights of the student.

Keep in mind, this section needs to be understood as a supplement to the first section on individual rights. We hope it will help clarify where the rights of minors fall especially where it relates to their participation in school and school activities.

The first and most major right for all students is non-disclosure and non-participation. No one, no teacher, principal, counselor, or other student has the right to make you disclose your religious beliefs. Nor do they have the right to make you participate in any activity that is contrary to your religious beliefs. This right comes to us from the Supreme Court case:

School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) (USSC+)

This was the last time anyone could make a student participate in a prayer that was contrary to their personal beliefs. What this also did, through extension, was make it illegal to single out a student for non-participation. "Those who choose not to participate can go stand out in the hall." This was also found to be a violation of these students rights. For it place undue pressure on those students.

In later years, people became confused as to what students could or couldn't do religiously in school. This was finally address in the Supreme Court with:

Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens By and Through Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990) (USSC+)

This ruling allowed what is now known as "Student led, Student initiated". Meaning that any religious activity that occurs in school must be sponsored by students, led by students, and initiated by students. That any student has the right to pray or form religious clubs. The limit on this being as son long as it does not disrupt the beliefs of other students. It does not mean that students can proselytize other student in school. It does not mean that prayers can be read over the intercom. It does not allow for prayer at graduation ceremonies.

Any breach of these rights are covered in the section addressing Individual Rights. All that these rulings do in reinforce those basic rights that all of us have.

Most importantly, if your rights mean anything to you as a student, you must stand up for them, yourself. No one can make sure that your rights are protected. Only you can protect your rights.

In this section, we look into the rights of those people who wish to teach their religious beliefs to others.

After extensive research, we could find no law or court rulings that would prohibit teaching religious beliefs to anyone, by anyone.

Can you teach minors? There are no laws against it. There are no court rulings against it.

Some advice on teaching, especially where minors are involved. Do it in a public place, like a meeting room or library conference room, or even a park. Don't teach in your house. Although, it's not illegal, it could save you some harassment later. No one can claim that you are abusing minors by teaching them, if you teach them in a public setting.

Also, have another adult present. This person doesn't need to be a teacher, but it gives you another responsible person present.

Outside of these words of advice, in matters of teaching your religious beliefs, all of your rights covered in the first two sections fully apply.