Freedom of Religion and Belief

The ACLU works to ensure that laws and governmental practices neither promote religion nor interfere with its free exercise—guarantees of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”

Sometimes this takes the form of opposing government support for particular religious views, such as when the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for permitting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to use taxpayer money to impose religious restrictions on reproductive health services in the U.S. government’s trafficking victims program.

We also oppose the “Countering Violent Extremism” program, premised on the discredited idea that expressing certain political or religious views is an indicator of future violence, which often subjects Muslim communities to increased surveillance by law enforcement. In 2014, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice named Boston—along with Minneapolis and Los Angeles—as sites for this pilot program, and we continue to speak out about the civil liberties concerns it raises and provide Know Your Rights trainings to affected communities.

Our work on freedom of religion and belief intersects with our work on equal rights, freedom of expression and association, and reproductive freedom when individuals or institutions claim a right to discriminate in the business world—by refusing to employ, or refusing to provide employees with prescription insurance coverage for contraception or wedding services to LGBTQ people—in the name of religion.

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