Homework April 27, 2011

INTRODUCTION:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition for the word religion is, “The service and worship of God or the supernatural.” This is a vague definition because it in no way helps to distinguish religion from non-religion. Not having a clear definition of religion in the United States Constitution has caused many ways of worshiping to come into question. On the one hand, if the framers of the Constitution had defined religion it would have solved the issue of people claiming that morally wrong or illegal acts are legal for them because it is what their religion calls for them to do. On the other hand, if the framers would have defined religion, they would have been dictating what society had to believe in and that would not provide for a diverse and religiously expanding society. (Davis 89-91) Although the Bill of Rights guarantees Americans religious freedom because of the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment, because the framers did not define the term religion some ways of worshipping have come into question and the courts have to decide to let this type of worship continue or if it should be stopped. Examples of cases like this include Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida (1993), Snyder v. Phelps, the Samuel Wilgus eagle feathers case, and Polygamy.

BODY PARAGRAPH I:

Introduces the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye and why its ways of worshipping are controversial. Then goes on to discuss the court case and the outcome. Paragraph ends by relating topic back to thesis.

BODY PARAGRAPH II:

Introduces the Snyder v. Phelps court case from how it came about, to why it is controversial, and what the outcome was. Paragraph ends by relating topic back to thesis.

BODY PARAGRAPH III:

Discusses the Samuel Wilgus eagle feathers case and explains the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. Then the outcome is discussed and the paragraph ends by relating the topic back to the thesis.

BODY PARAGRAPH IV:

Introduces the topic of Polygamy. Discusses how it came about, what ended it, and why it was wrong. Discusses the court case of Reynolds v. United States and also how this court case was one of the first major religious freedom court cases. Paragraph ends relating the topic back to the thesis statement.

CONCLUSION:

Sum everything up and restate the thesis…it’s better that religion was not defined.

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Homework April 25, 2011

The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition for the word religion is, “The service and worship of God or the supernatural.” This is a vague definition because it in no way helps to distinguish religion from non-religion. Not having a clear definition of religion in the United States Constitution has caused many ways of worshiping to come into question. On the one hand, if the framers of the Constitution had defined religion it would have solved the issue of people claiming that morally wrong or illegal acts are legal for them because it is what their religion calls for them to do. On the other hand, if the framers would have defined religion, they would have been dictating what society had to believe in and that would not provide for a diverse and religiously expanding society. (Davis 89-91)Although the Bill of Rights guarantees Americans religious freedom because of the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment, some ways of worshipping have come into question and the courts have to decide to let this type of worship continue or if it should be stopped. Examples of cases like this include Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida (1993), Snyder v. Phelps, the Samuel Wilgus eagle feathers case, and Polygamy.

Polygamy has been an ongoing issue in America since the 1820’s. Polygamy is where a man is married to more than one woman at the same time. Because of the Poland Act of 1874, polygamy is now illegal.  In the Mormon faith it is believed that having several marriages “restores” the marriages that occurred in the bible. The first polygamous marriage occurred in Ohio in 1833. When polygamy was popular in the Mormon faith, “Actually, something like 20 or 30 percent of Latter-day Saints engaged in the practice depending on the statistical strategy one employs.” (Compton) Polygamy was deemed illegal once the Poland Act of 1874 was in place, which was used to monitor the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 made it so it was illegal to enter into one marriage when still legally married to another person. A major religious freedom court case, and one of the first, is Reynolds v. United States. This court case was a way for Mormons to try and defend polygamy. They defended it by saying that polygamy helped eliminate prostitution and that it made their marriages similar to marriages in the bible. George Reynolds was charged with Bigamy in 1878. The court made it clear to Reynolds that if he had married the two women, “under the influence of a religious belief,” he would be found guilty. Reynolds accepted the charges and was found guilty. (Linder) There is more to polygamy than just a man with more than one wife. Polygamy affects the women and children of these marriages because they are all neglected due to having a father who has to tend to other families as well. This neglect does not only include time spent with the father but often times the father would favor one of his families over the other. This meant that the neglected family did not get as much money and they grew up not learning how a normal family functions. As for the poorly treated women in these marriages, they would have to fight for the husband’s attention and affection. Knowing this, Supreme Court Justice Morrison Remick Waite was strongly opposed to polygamy. Waite once said, “There has never been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offense against society.” (Sekulow 87) Reynolds v. United States was a major religious freedom court case because even though the Mormon religion accepted and somehow called for the “sealing” of several marriages, the United States court system decided that it was morally wrong and therefore illegal. The Mormons fought back but did not win and because of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act and Poland Act of 1874, polygamy is still illegal to practice in today’s society. Polygamy can still be found in some places today but none of the marriages after the first one are considered legally binding. This does not however mean that if a person is of the Mormon faith they are practicing polygamy.

Homework April 20, 2011

One controversial religious practice is the possession of eagle feathers by people who are non-tribal members. The possession of eagle feathers is illegal because of the Eagle Act of 1940. Samuel Wilgus is a non-tribal member from Utah who was arrested in 1998 for the possession of 141 bald and golden eagle feathers. The act “bans the possession of eagle feathers or parts except for certain uses, including scientific studies and ‘the religious purposes of Indian tribes.’” Wilgus had been practicing the Native American religion throughout his life and had been given the eagle feathers as a gift from tribal members. He tried to appeal his conviction by claiming it was his right to be able to practice his religion using eagle feathers because of the first amendments freedom of religion clause.  In the end the court ended up not allowing non-tribal members, such as Wilgus, to posses eagle feathers even if they were given to them. The court made this decision with the Native Americans in mind because if they allowed this the tribes would have less access to eagle feathers and the wild life preserve would have to act as “religious police” because they would have to decide if they thought a non-tribal member was telling the truth about their religious beliefs. (Draper) This is a controversial religious freedom case because Samuel Wilgus was not allowed to continue to practice his religion in the way he thought necessary. The Eagle Act of 1940 has taken away the religious freedom of people who are not registered with the wild life preserves as a tribal member because they cannot possess eagle feathers.

Many of the most controversial religious practices that have come into question before the United States Courts are religions that are not mainstream religions. This includes the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye. In 1993 the courts were presented with an interesting case involving the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment. This was the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida (1993) case. The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye practices the religion of Santeria. Santeria is a very controversial religion because it includes animal sacrifice. Animal’s being sacrificed for a religion makes most Americans of a mainstream religion uneasy but when the case came before the Supreme Court of the United States of America, “The Supreme court justices were united in holding that the Hialeah city ordinances were overtly discriminatory against the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, although they divided on the underlying legal reasoning and precedents for holding this to be so.” This meant that the Supreme Court deemed the sacrifice of animals for religious purposes, legal. (Brandon) This case shows that sometimes when the Supreme Court is presented with a controversial case that may upset the public to deem legal, they have to look closely at what is being presented to make their decision, even if it is not always what will make the public happy. The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida case is also another example of why so many religions are controversial because the framers of the Constitution did not define religion.

Homework April 18, 2011

Religious Freedom: In the bill of rights the first amendment guarantees freedom of religion. This cannot always be possible though because some religious practices are either dangerous or immoral. When I use the term religious freedom I am usually referring to it in a way that means Americans are supposed to be able to do whatever they want to worship but that is not always legal. Derek Davis wrote “The Courts and the Constitutional Meaning of ‘Religion’: A History and Critique” in it he discusses how religious freedom is often debated because the framers of the Constitution did not define religion in it.

Polygamy: Polygamy is where a man marries more than one woman. It is not legal anymore so when it occurs the marriages are not legally binding. Polygamy is used in the Mormon faith. I use the term polygamy when discussing the Poland Act of 1847 and the court case of Reynolds v. United States. This was a major court case against the illegalization of polygamy.

Eagle Act of 1940: The article “Court overturns case that allowed non-Indians to posses eagle feathers,” by Electa Draper brings up The Eagle Act of 1940, which, “bans the possession of eagle feathers or parts except for certain uses, including scientific studies and ‘the religious purposes of Indian tribes.’” Samuel Wilgus was sued under this Act for possession of 141 eagle feathers. I will use the Eagle Act of 1940 to discuss the Samuel Wilgus case.

Americans are not always guaranteed the right of religious freedom of few examples of where this has happened has been the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida, Snyder v. Phelps, the Samuel Wilgus eagle feathers case, and the Poland Act of 1847.

Even though Americans are guaranteed the right of religious freedom, are Americans free to worship however they want?

This thesis answers the question because it gives specific examples that I will discuss. These examples support the fact that Americans do not have total religious freedom. Also, that several ways Americans like to worship have to come into question for their morality and how legal they are.

Although America is a place where, ideally, all religions can coexist and freedom of religion is apart of our bill of rights, some religious beliefs have come into question. A few examples of these situations are the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah Florida, Snyder v. Phelps, the Samuel Wilgus eagle feathers case, and the Poland Act of 1847.

Homework April 13, 2011

“The necessity for some sort of classification system is obvious: the vast diversity of religion in the United States requires that we be able to bring order out of what would otherwise be sheer chaos.”-Julia Mitchell Corbett

 

This means that with all laws there has to be some sort of line that can be drawn in order to keep society from harming itself and in this case it is with religion. Corbett is saying that if society didn’t have any laws or way of constricting some religions people would be committing heinous and claiming that it is their way of worshiping. Background information that the reader would need to know would be that the first amendment includes freedom of religion but the courts sometimes have to step in and place boundaries on what some people can and can’t do to worship. This quote is important to my research paper because it helps solidify the fact that not all religious practices are legal and for good reason. The quote will help support the reasons why the court cases I want to discuss in my paper came about.

 

“There has never been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offense against society…it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life.” –Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite

 

This quote is saying that in no way can polygamy be legal. Chief Justice Waite is basically saying that it is a very shameful thing that American society frowns upon. He is also assuming that the framers of the Constitution did not mean that all religious practices were legal when they included religious freedom in the first amendment. Background information that the reader would need to know is that Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite was the Judge in the Reynolds v. United States (1878) case. This case was about challenging the Poland Act of 1874. George Reynolds’s trial was on the charge of bigamy. The court did not rule in his favor. This quote is important to my research paper because it will help when I go into talking about the Poland Act of 1847. This case is one of the most important polygamy cases because it relies a great deal on the first amendments freedom of religion clause.

 

These two specific quotes relate to each other because they both discuss some aspect of the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment in some way. They both express a need for boundaries on what freedom of religion really is. I think they do use the same terms even though they don’t exactly say the same thing. They appeal to the average person but still sound educated. The quotes differ because one is more specific than the other. The first quote is talking about freedom of religion in general needing boundaries. The second quote is talking about how polygamy is not right and cannot be justified by the freedom of religion clause in the first amendment. The quotes agree on the fact that there has to be boundaries on some religious worshipping. They agree on the fact that if there wasn’t a boundary because America would be chaotic without it. I think that the quotes agree because the first quote helps support the reasoning of the second quote.

 

Homework April 5, 2011

The book I chose to use information was written by Jay Alan Sekulow entitled, Witnessing Their Faith. One chapter in it was called, “The Mormon Controversy.” This chapter began discussing what the controversy was, which was polygamy. It discussed act that was put in place to make polygamy illegal. This was the Poland Act of 1874. The Mormons tried to defend themselves by saying that polygamy helped eliminate prostitution and it made their marriages similar to marriages in the bible. This chapter also discusses the various Mormon leaders. Morrison Remick Waite was the Supreme Court Justice during the case of Reynolds v. United States.

 

This book can be considered academic because it has a boring cover. Also, it is academic because Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc published it. The book can also be found in the Library of Congress, which helps make it academic. At the end of ever chapter there are notes and citations.

 

This book relates to my research focus because the Mormon religion has brought moral controversy to American Society. Most non-Mormon Americans were not okay with the idea of Polygamy and fought to get rid of it.  Eventually the court deemed it illegal. The freedom of religion clause did not work to the Mormons favor in this case. I could also do more research on the Reynolds v. United States court case.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Brandon, George. “The American Historical Review.” JSTOR. June 2005.  Chicago Journals.

Vol. 110, No. 3, pp. 830-831. March 22, 2011. Electronic. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/ahr.110.3.830a.

Clark, Charles S. “Cults in America.” CQ Researcher Online. May 7, 1993. Vol. 3, No. 17.

Introduction. March 22, 2011. Electronic. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/

Draper, Electa. “Court overturns case that allowed non-Indians to possess eagle feathers.”

Google News. March 29, 2011. The Denver Post. April 3, 2011. Electronic. http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ ci_17728167

Sacks, Deana Pollard. “How Protected Is Free Speech?” Worldpress.com. November 7, 2010.

April 4, 2011. Electronic. http://www.worldpress.com/print_article.cfm?artice_id=3940&don’t=yes

Sekulow, Jay Alan. Witnessing Their Faith. United States of America: Rowman & Littlefield

Publishers, INC, 2006. Print.

 

 

Homework April 4, 2011

“How Protected Is Free Speech?” by Deana Pollard Sacks

 

This article is about the case Snyder v. Phelps. It begins by describing the events that led up to the lawsuit. Fred W. Phelps is the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas and when he and his follows protested at a funeral, the family of the soldier sued Phelps. The fallen soldier was Marine Lance Corporal Matthew. The signs that the Westboro Baptist Church members were holding said things such as, “Semper fi fags,” and ones specifically aimed at Snyder like, “You’re going to hell.” So, Albert Snyder, Matthew’s dad, sued Phelps on account of, “Phelps’s’ signs and epic caused him extreme and severe emotional distress leading to physical illness, worsening of his diabetes, severe depression, and an inability to have positive memories about his son…” At first, Snyder won the case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal but once it got to the Supreme Court, the decision was reversed. The rest of the article goes on to talk about a related case called New York Times v. Sullivan where a police officer was suing the New York Times because they said that the police were harassing Martin Luther King Jr..

 

This article seems to be pretty reliable. The website it came from was Worldpress.com which is about news all over the world. Also, the website is a .org website instead of .com and for some reason those are supposed to be more reliable. The website also says that if you want more information you can contact the author, which makes it seem more reliable because you can talk to the actual person who wrote it.

 

This article can be related to my focus even though it can be related to freedom of speech because the Westboro Baptist Church members are protesting because of their religious beliefs. By protesting their religious beliefs, they are offending a lot of people and causing a lot of anger amongst Americans. This is what caused the government to have to take an interest in this church’s practices to see if they were doing anything that could be labeled as illegal. The other court case in this article that was mentioned would not help me at all because it is only about freedom of speech. I may be able to find other law suits against this church because this is something that definitely angers a lot of people and they would want to sue this church.

 

“Court overturns case that allowed non-Indians to possess eagle feathers.” By Electa Draper

 

This article is about how some Indian tribes have been allowed to have eagle feathers because they got them through a government approved way. There is a place that the Indians can get the feathers from that have preserved eagle parts from eagles that were already dead. Samuel Ray Wilgus is not Indian though and was arrested for possessing 141 eagle feathers. The article then brings up The Eagle Act of 1940, which, “bans the possession of eagle feathers or parts except for certain uses, including scientific studies and ‘the religious purposes of Indian tribes.’” A person has to be recognized as being in an Indian tribe to get eagle feathers. Wilgus claimed that he had received the feathers as gifts from his spiritual practices as a member of the Southern Paiute Nation. The court felt that by continuing to allow the tribes to give feathers to non-tribal sincere members they would limit the access to eagle feathers and would turn wildlife officials into “religion cops.”

 

Although this article is from a .com website it seems reliable. This article also has the authors contact information at the end of the article. It is a current article because it was posted and updated on March 29, 2011. Most importantly it comes from a newspaper, which is “The Denver Post.”

 

This article is very helpful to me and relates to my focus because it is about someone suing on account of their religion. Wilgus may not be an actual Indian but he has practice the ways of the Southern Paiute Nation ways while his parents were raising him. The court did not however rule in his favor. This makes this article the first religion case that the government has ruled against the religion in a way. Wilgus will just have to get his eagle feathers through other means.

 

 

 

The first blog I chose to discuss was http://www.theconstitutional.org/2011/03/26/islam-and-the-first-amendment/ from a website called theConstitutional.org and it was titled, “Islam and the first amendment.” This blog discussed how some people believed that freedom of religion was only referring to Christianity and this blog was trying to disprove it. For example, “I know of no sources that suggested that anyone during the Framing era understood the Constitution as excluding “Mahometans,” or non-Christians more generally, from either the Free Exercise Clause or the No Religious Test Clause.” The blogger is saying that the framers had no intention of excluding any religions when drafting the first amendment. This blog seems reliable because it comes from a website for blogs specifically about the Constitution and it is a .org website. This relates to my focus because I could use it to help describe what my research will be about to my audience. It helps me describe it because it helps the reader to get an understanding of how my focus can include religions that the average person has never heard of.

 

The second blog I chose to discuss was http://schansblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/emergence-of-religious-freedom-my.html. It is called, “The emergence of religious freedom: my review of Michael Fariss’ ‘From Tyndale to Madison’” written by Eric Schansberg. The blog starts off discussing a celebration that is celebrating the day the religious freedom clause was added to the Constitution because in today’s society, “You can be a Baptist or a Mennonite; a Catholic or a Protestant; a Christian or a Hindu; a theist, a deist or an atheist—and it’s okay.” The rest of the blog is a book review. This is helpful to my focus because it shows why the freedom of religion is so important to Americans and what people had to suffer through before they had it. I’m not so sure how reliable this blog is because it is someone’s opinion and description about a book they read. Also, he doesn’t seem to have any real expertise on the subject but he brings up some valid points. I could use this by saying that, “One persons opinion is that,” and then use his words accordingly.

 

The third blog I chose to discuss is called Jihad Watch (http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/03/west-java-people-can-no-longer-publicly-identify-themselves-as-ahmadis.html) written by a person named Marisol and was posted on March 3, 2011. Marisol discusses how in Indonesia the Ahmadis are being forced to convert themselves to mainstream Islam. Authorities are having them, “…limit their activities, take down signs identifying their mosques and schools, and – ideally – to re-educate and re-integrate themselves within mainstream Islam.” This is giving them no freedom to practice their religion. I could use this in my essay by supporting my point, in possibly the introduction, that Americans are fortunate to have the freedom of religion clause and that it is very important. This source may not be very reliable either, especially since the person who posted it only gives their first name and gave no explanation of their connection to this topic or their background. I could use this again by citing the information from this blog as a persons opinion and not necessarily fact.

 

 

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