Scott: Every once in a while, we like to see just how smart you are by putting you to the test with a pop quiz. So, guess what time it is? That is right. And Keith Kocinski has got this one all the way from our nation’s capital. So, you ready?
Keith: Hey there! I am in Washington, D.C. in honor of National Religious Freedom Day, a day to mark freedom of religion in our country as guaranteed by the Constitution.
But before we tell you more about Religious Freedom Day, we have a pop quiz for you.
Which amendment in the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion? Is it:
A. The First Amendment
B. The Second Amendment
C. The Fifth Amendment
D. The Fourteenth Amendment
Take ten seconds!
Time is up! The answer is “A.” The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment ensures Americans have the freedom to choose and practice their religion. It is one of the reasons many early settlers made the United States their home.
I visited the Newseum in Washington, D.C., an interactive museum that looks at the freedoms of the First Amendment, to find out more.
Expert: I think religious freedom is the greatest contribution America has made to world civilization because we were the first nation to invent this arrangement and full freedom of conscience for every single human being.
Keith: Today, Religious Freedom Day marks the anniversary of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. The document, which was written by Thomas Jefferson, became the basis for the idea of separation of church and state, meaning religious organizations can’t get involved in government and the government stays out of religion. It is also guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Expert: The words ‘separation of church and state’ are not in the First Amendment, but the principal is, and the establishment clause which prohibits government from interfering with religion and prohibits religion from somehow taking over and using government to oppress people.
Keith: But freedom of religion continues to be a hot topic and is often brought before the country’s courts for a decision. Many of the cases in question are often about what is acceptable in public forums, especially on a school campus or classroom. For example, last year, cheerleaders in Texas wrote religious quotes on posters during football games. And this school year, students sang religious songs in school. Both of these situations were challenged but the students’ rights were upheld.
Expert: There are lots of opportunities for students to express their religious beliefs in their class discussions or by sharing their religious beliefs with other students, by forming religious clubs in high schools.
Keith: The First Amendment protects five different freedoms, including a person’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.
Scott: Want to know more about religious freedom? Well, you can explore the First Amendment over at Channelone.com.