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Handout D: Restrictions on the Free Exercise of Religion

Directions: For each statement, decide whether you think each hypothetical example is very restrictive, somewhat restrictive, maybe restrictive, or not restrictive. Think about the reasons for your decisions and use the cases in Handout A to help you decide.

  • Public employees may not display religious symbols (crosses, menorahs, etc.) in their personal workspace.
  • Christian Scientist parents are required to seek medical treatment for their children, even though they believe that prayer – not medicine – will heal people.
  • A member of the Old Order of Amish, who does not accept Social Security benefits for religious reasons, must still pay social security taxes.
  • Members of the Navy are prohibited from wearing any head covering indoors, even though some branches of Judaism require men to wear a yarmulke at all times.
  • All witnesses in court, regardless of their religious affiliation, must swear an oath on either the Bible or the Constitution before testifying at trial.
  • New members of Congress may use any sacred book such as the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, etc. or no book at all when being sworn into office.
  • Members of a club promoting atheism at a public university must open membership to students who believe in God and attend church.
  • All persons applying for a drivers’ license must remove any head-covering or scarf for their photo.
  • All private organizations (including religious organizations) must pay for employee insurance programs providing birth control and abortions.
  • All priests and ministers must perform a marriage ceremony for anyone who asks them to do so.