INTL 1204 Freedom from Religion

When might it be necessary to legally ensure the freedom from government endorsement, enforcement, or involvement with religion? Why do state bans on proselytizing violate a person's human rights? What is the difference between fear of coercion and the right to teach about and disseminate materials about one's religion? When is it necessary to regulate religiously-motivated actions that may cause harm to self or others or infringe upon the rights of protected classes of people?

Rutgers University · February 17, 2021

We will explore four case studies in this course on “Freedom from Religion.”

In the first lesson on “Freedom from Religion: Free from Government Endorsement of Religion,” we will ask what are the permissible limitations on religion? Why is freedom from religion so important to whom and why? What are the consequences for violating this right? How do national laws compare around the world that prohibits government endorsement of religion?

In the second lesson on “Freedom from Religion: Free from Government Involvement in Religion,” we will examine the harm related to states registering religion, privileging one religion over another in relation to vulnerable children and adults. Define government-sanctioned religious profiling—is this a freedom “from” religion issue? What are the forms of religious and ethnic classifications on national identity cards? How many countries currently engage in religious profiling? What are the consequences for such religious-based surveillance of religious groups? What are the human rights abuses that have occurred because of religious profiling?

In the third lesson on “The Legal Limits on Freedom from Religious Coercion and Proselytizing,” we will examine the right to be free from state-led coercion, a distinct right from teaching about one’s religion and disseminating materials. We will ask what is the difference between forced coercion, proselytism, and evangelism? Compare and contrast these contemporary legal definitions to colonial justifications of the Doctrine of Discovery.

In the fourth lesson on “Freedom from Religion: Beyond the Zero-Sum Game of Rites v. Rights,” we will explore best practices for protecting the freedom of conscience while not shielding prejudice. How does the freedom from religion argument intersect, support, contradict, or collide with the arguments for conscientious objection? Does it matter if the conscientious objector is a member of a majority group––or is this legal argument limited to minorities and individuals? Is there a way beyond the zero-sum game between rites v. rights?


Dr. Nathan C. Walker

President, 1791 Delegates

Civic Education for a Common Good

We apply the U.S. Department of Education’s Consensus Statements about Constitutional Approaches for Teaching about Religion

▸ Our approach to religion is academic, not devotional;
▸ We strive for student awareness of religions, but do not press for student acceptance of any religion;
▸ We sponsor the study about religion, not the practice of religion;
▸ We expose students to a diversity of religious views, but may not impose any particular view;
▸ We educate about all religions, we do not promote or denigrate any religion;
▸ We inform students about religious beliefs and practices, it does not seek to conform students to any particular belief or practice.

We apply the American Academy of Religion’s “Religious Literacy Guidelines”

▸ “Religious Literacy Guidelines for College Students.” American Academy of Religion, 2019.
▸ “Teaching About Religion: AAR Guidelines for K-12 Public Schools.” American Academy of Religion, April 2010.

We apply the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Frameworks for Religious Studies

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, “Religious Studies Companion Document for the C3 Framework.” Silver Spring, MD: National Council for the Social Studies, 2017.