Indian Religious Freedom research paper

Submitted By juvelyn92
Words: 1617
Pages: 7

Native American religion is influenced by nature. The animals, plants, and the environment around them play an important role in the religion of Native American Indians. In the past, Native Americans have fought a long and constant battle to protect and preserve their home, land, culture, and religion from the federal government and society. Native Americans were denied access to religious grounds, banned to utilize sacred objects for rituals, and were prohibited to practice traditional religious ceremonies. Preserving the tradition, culture, and religion were troublesome for the Native Americans and even life threatening. When the federal government dealt with legislations and cases that fought for the rights religious freedom of the Native Americans, the federal government quit barricading with the Indian’s religious rights. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 pioneered the movement to establish and clarify the religious rights of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiian, and cases like Fools Crow v. Gullett and Lyng v. Northwest Cemetery Protective Association fought to protect their sacred religious sites. The way of living for the American Indians were threatened by the United States Government. The Government enforced laws to make religious practices for the Indians illegal because the United States believed that the traditional religion and culture of the Indians would burden them in “progress towards civilization.” (Forbes-Boyte) In fact, in 1984 the Government punished any Indian who partook in traditional religious practices which includes acknowledging a medicine person. Religious activities for the American Indians were illegal, and Indians were punished by being sentence to jail for at least thirty days. At the same time, being a country that was built and protected by the Constitution, the United States must follow the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment which “allows for all citizens to practice their religion without governmental interferences.” (Forbes-Boyte) Because the First Amendment did not include the American Indians and indigenous religious rights, it is necessary that Congress should establish religious rights for the American Indians.
In 1978, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act which is a federal law that protects the religion and culture of the Indian people. This act was established to defend and maintain the religious rights and cultural rituals of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiian to express their religions freely. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act protects the rights to “access of sacred sites, repatriation of sacred objects held in museums, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites, including with prisons, and use and possession of objects considered sacred.” (Thull) This legislation also known as AIRFA initiated the policy of the United States to protect and preserve the religious rights of the Native American Indian and is the first to declare and specify the rights to express and exercise religious rituals and ceremonies. Congress passed this act with the intentions to eradicate federal intrusion with the traditional religious rituals and beliefs of the Native Americans. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act proclaims that “the freedom of religion for all people is an inherent right, fundamental to the democratic structure of the United States and is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution . . . it shall be the policy of the United States to preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions . . . “ (Thull) Protected and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, every citizen in the United States has the right to freedom of religion. Therefore, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act included the Native American Indians to be protected by the First Amendment to…