First Freedom is offering an essay / video contest that rewards $2,500 to winners of their contest on freedoms of the First Amendment of the Constitution. This year, the topic focuses on the freedom of religion.
INTRODUCTION: The United States is comprised of a patchwork of diverse groups and communities that have all contributed to its history. For many such communities, the quest for freedom of religion and belief has been a central theme in this history. Many of the colonists who first settled in North America came to escape religious persecution. The irony of this settlement, however, was that as many communities identified themselves with a single religion, the colonists sometimes transformed from the persecuted to persecutors.
After the American Revolution, the colonies faced the challenge of unifying as a nation, forming a democratic government, and establishing a constitution. A bill of rights was soon added as the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, stating: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Yet, the First Amendment guarantee to freedom of religion applied only to the federal government and not to state and local governments.
In the 19th century, waves of Catholic and Jewish immigrants flooded into the United States, and homegrown religious movements also emerged. At the beginning of the 20th century, Chinese and Japanese immigrants brought Asian religions to this country. In the 1940s, after the United States Supreme Court extended the interpretation of the word “liberty” in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause to other freedoms in the Bill of Rights, the guarantee of religious freedom was expanded as law to the state and local level.
After World War II, a new influx of Jews came to this nation fleeing persecution. Then with the change in immigration laws in 1965, even greater reigious diversity became a part of the American landscape.
Despite legal adaptations, however, many religious groups continue to struggle to receive equal rights under the law. Some also battle religious discrimination.
TOPIC: The United States has become a country of great religious diversity. The treatment of religious minorities is considered by many to be the true measure of a government’s guarantee of religious freedom.
||Select a religion or belief group from your local community, state or region that was or is a minority group. (If you are not currently living in the United States, select a U.S. locality that you have lived in. If you are participating in an international-studies program and have not lived in the United States, select any state or region, perhaps one where a family member or friend lives.)
||Research and analyze its history as it encounters issues of religious freedom and equality.
||Research and evaluate how this group’s local history compares to the broader narrative of U.S. history and First Amendment law.
||Has this group fully realized its freedom of religion and belief?
Online Registration Deadline: Monday, November 15, 2010
Postmark Entry Deadline: Saturday, November 27, 2010
Announcement of Winners: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 (Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday)
A couple of articles: