Freedom of Religion


Welcome to LawShelf’s video-course on freedom of religion. This course focuses on the first two clauses of the First Amendment to the US Constitution: the clauses prohibiting the government from “establishing” a national religion and the clause preventing the government from “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This course focuses, in roughly equal parts, on these two clauses and how they are interpreted and applied.

 This is an introductory level course and no prior knowledge of law or government is required.

 The course opens with a discussion of the historical context of the First Amendment and an explanation of the two clauses and where they apply. We’ll also discuss the legal standards under which freedom of religion are analyzed and discuss the important differences between religious beliefs and religious practices.

 Modules 2 and 3 focus on the free exercise clause. We’ll look at cases that have analyzed laws that target religious groups and those that have disproportionate impacts on particular religious groups. We’ll also discuss the principle that practicing religion does not mandate that the government exempt adherents from laws of general applicability. Module 3 looks at the application of free exercise clause jurisprudence on a variety of rights informed by religious beliefs, including refusing medical treatment and conducting religious meetings and services.

 Module 4 segues to the establishment clause, first focusing on tests that are used to determine whether government laws or policies are considered to be enforcements of religion. We’ll also look at cases involving religious monuments, at government voucher programs that can be used at religious schools and at cases involving school prayer.

 Module 5 concludes the course with a look at a variety of recent cases involving freedom of religion. We’ll look at cases involving the usage of “in God we Trust” on currency and Ten Commandment monuments on government property. We’ll also look at President Trump’s travel ban and exemptions from the Affordable Care Act in the Hobby Lobby case. We’ll also look at the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which analyzed whether exemptions to civil rights rules must be carved to protect asserted religious freedom.

 This course should give you a firm understanding of both freedom of religion and freedom from religion under the provision that the “founding fathers” thought important enough to put at the very beginning of the Bill of Rights.

 Best of luck and we welcome your feedback.




The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses - Module 1 of 5


The Free Exercise Clause - Module 2 of 5


The Free Exercise Clause in Specific Contexts - Module 3 of 5


Establishment Clause in Specific Contexts - Module 4 of 5


Recent Freedom of Religion Jurisprudence - Module 5 of 5

Final Exam only needs to be taken by those seeking to earn the Digital Badge credentials for this course.