At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the United States Constitution was drafted. During the same event, a bill of rights was proposed but was rejected without debate by delegates [Sean, 2006]. The Constitution was passed to the states for ratification but it became necessary after the drafting of the United States Constitution to include the Bill of rights in order to clearly specify the enumerated rights of the citizens which government must earnestly protect. James Madison and others began work on the document and the Bill of rights which mitigates the abuse of power by the government on the people was prepared [Sean, 2006]. The States adopted it and has since been in existence. The Bill of rights represents the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States; it forms the fulcrum of balance between the liberty of the people and the exercise of authority by the government. It has had tremendous impact on the activities of government and the individuality of citizens since its ratification in 1791 [Sean, 2006].
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Religious freedom has been guaranteed in the Bill of rights because each individual is allowed to practice any religion he chooses as a right, and the government is prevented from formulating a national/state religion. It was necessary as this forms the basis for ensuring freedom for all as a creed for United States [Liberty, 2009]. The ideal has been difficult to maintain because some religious acts of the people can constitute threat to national security and government may be persuade to intervene at such points. In view of this, the Supreme Court has decided on cases bordering on this. The balance is the ideal but it is continuous struggle to know where the limit of each entity [people or government] ends.
If this balance were not maintained, the liberty citizens enjoy will be absent. Religious liberty is a product of freedom of religion afforded by the Bill of rights which is sustained by religious tolerance [Liberty, 2009]. The concept of religious liberty in the United States has been real. This is typified by the avalanche of religious groups in the country. It is important to maintain separation between Church and state [Liberty, 2009]. This will ensure the sanity of government and morality of religion. If government interferes in religion, it will undermine the freedom of expression and association, promote religious intolerance and discourage religious diversity. This position was introduced by Thomas Jefferson, professed by John Locke, supported by James Madison a leading figure in the framing of the Bill of rights, and several other proponents over the ages.
‘Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.’ [Thomas Jefferson’s words]
Religious freedom is relevant to our contemporary society. The issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings, saying organized prayers in schools, religious subsidies by government is some of the salient issues that underscore the relevance of religious freedom today [Liberty, 2009]. Every human has the inherent inclination to be ‘religious’ and thus the concept will continue to be topical.
ü Sean Keefer. 2006. The Significance of the Bill of Rights How Ten Amendments Solidified Our Nation. Retrieved on 20th of April, 2009.
ü Religious liberty. http://www.iwgonline.org/liberty/ Retrieved on 20th of April, 2009.
ü Jefferson Thomas. [January, 1802] Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. Retrieved on 20th of April, 2009.