Religious Liberty

The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate.... When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.
-- Harry Blackmun,
Majority Opinion, Lee v. Weisman, 1992

The right of each and every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution's framers understood very well that religious liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone.

The ACLU is dedicated to protecting the First Amendment that guarantees our religion is free of government and our government is free of religion so that no one religion influences the government decisions that affect us all.

Oregon’s constitution provides even more religious liberty protection than the First Amendment. Article I, section 5 of the Oregon Constitution states in part: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious (sic), or theological institution.” Article I, section 2 provides “All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences” and Article I, section 3 states “No law shall in any case whatever control the free exercise, and enjoyment of religious (sic) opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

The ACLU of Oregon is committed to ensuring that the words of the Oregon Constitution mean what they say and will continue to protect religious liberty.


Nakashima v. Board of Education

Student Athletes Prevail in Religious Discrimination Case Against OSAA

On August 18, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Oregon School Activities Association to pay $66,230 in attorney fees. This case was on behalf of students at Portland Adventist Academy who sought a reasonable accommodation from the OSAA to compete in the state basketball tournament without having to play during the Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).


Shepherd v. Oregon Youth Authority

Imprisoned Seventh Day Adventist Allowed to Attend Service

July 13, 2009 - Levi Shepherd is a Seventh Day Adventist inmate of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, which is administered by the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA).  As a Seventh Day Adventist, Mr. Shepherd wants to attend religious services on Saturdays, his Sabbath.OYA does not provide Seventh Day Adventist clergy or services.



RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Mandate Daily Opportunity for Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (HB 3014) (2013)

Representative Sal Esquivel (R-Medford) introduced HB 3014, which would have required Oregon public schools, including public charter schools, to hang a U.S. flag in every classroom and to provide a daily opportunity for a student or teacher to lead the students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Under current law, schools are required to provide this opportunity once weekly.

The ACLU of Oregon has had long standing concerns about this statute, primarily because we  believe it is vulnerable to a challenge under the Oregon constitution’s religious freedom provision, Article I, section 5. The Pledge of Allegiance includes “One Nation under God” and yet our constitution states in part: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious (sic), or theological institution…”


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (HB 3604) (2011)

Currently, school districts are required to provide their students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a week. HB 3604 was introduced to expand the current requirement by allowing for daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.



Smith v. Employment Division

Faces of Liberty: Standing Up for Religious Freedom