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Religious Freedom

The First Amendment protects all individuals' right to religious liberty. The right to practice any religion - or no religion at all - is among the most fundamental of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. Americans belong to over 1,500 different religious bodies and sects. We're also a devout nation, with research indicating that more than 90% of Americans profess a belief in God. While other countries experience constant civil unrest stemming from religious differences, the United States has never suffered this type of conflict. The ACLU believes this is a result of the separation of church and state required by the First Amendment.

The separation of church and state is crucial to the protection of free religious exercise. The ACLU opposes government sponsorship of religious beliefs and practices, and we support individuals' right to worship as they please without government interference. For example, the government may not post the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, but the government cannot stop an individual from posting the Ten Commandments in that person's home, or business, or place of worship.

Some people interpret the separation of church and state as a form of hostility toward religion. The ACLU believes this separation is the ultimate protector of religion. The government that sponsors mandatory prayer in our classrooms and public institutions will become the government that enters our places of worship to regulate our religious expression.


Press Releases

Legislative Alerts

Past Events

Current Docket



Press Releases

April 14, 2016: Governor Haslam Vetoes Holy Bible as Official State Book

April 11, 2016: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Legislation Making Holy Bible Tennessee’s State Book

April 4, 2016: Bill Making Bible the State Book Heads to Governor

March 29, 2016: Bill Making Bible the State Book Advances

April 4, 2014: ACLU-TN Successfully Defends Student's Right to Read Bible at School

April 3, 2014:ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act”

March 31, 2014: ACLU-TN Protects Student’s Right to Read Bible at School

February 18, 2014: ACLU-TN Gratified “Religion to Discriminate” Bill Not Moving Forward

December 13, 2013: ACLU Files Brief Supporting Contraceptive Coverage Rule; Rule Does Not Violate Religious Liberty

October 04, 2013: ACLU-TN Responds to Prayer at Public School Football Games

April 2, 2013: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Anti-All-Comers Legislation - Bill Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns

July 18, 2012: ACLU-TN Stands with Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

April 3, 2012: ACLU-TN Urges Governor to Veto Anti-Evolution Legislation

March 1, 2012: ACLU Responds To Reports Of Proselytizing And Anti-LGBT Remarks By Principal At Tennessee High School - Principal Also Reportedly Said Pregnant Students Will Be “Jobless, Homeless and Living off the Government”

December 7, 2011: Sumner County Board of Education Ends System-wide Endorsement of Religion in Schools

September 8, 2011: ACLU-TN Releases Guide on Religion in Public Schools for Administrators and Teachers

August 16, 2011: DCSO Responds to ACLU-TN's Concerns About the Absence of Religious Expression Policies

May 9, 2011: ACLU-TN Stops Unconstitutional Bible Distribution in White County School

May 4, 2011: ACLU-TN Urges Schools to Keep Graduation and Prom Inclusive for All Students

May 2, 2011: ACLU-TN Lawsuit Charges Widespread Religious Activities in Sumner County Schools

March 1, 2011: ACLU of Tennessee Condemns Anti-Muslim Bill

December 7, 2010: ACLU-TN Alerts Tennessee Public Schools
To Importance of Inclusivity at the Holidays

January 5, 2010: Wilson County School Officials Agree To End Annual Distribution Of Bibles To Elementary School Students - Annual Practice Imperiled Religious Liberty

December 22 , 2009: City of Clarksville Ends Preferential Treatment of Religious Group - ACLU-TN Applauds City ’s Efforts

November 16, 2009: ACLU-TN Lawsuit Charges Cheatham County School Official with Pattern and Practice of Government-Sponsored Religious Activities

October 7, 2009 - ACLU-TN Successfully Advocates On Behalf Of Student Preachers: Worship Services Can Now Be Held In Public Park

September 29, 2009: ACLU-TN Responds to Religious Activity in Tennessee Public Schools - Releases Guide for Administrators and Teachers

May 30, 2008: ACLU Wins Judicial Victory for Religious Freedom in Tennessee - Preferential Treatment of Praying Parents is Ruled Unconstitutional

September 7, 2006: ACLU-TN Fights for Religious Freedom in Wilson County School System

January 13, 2006: ACLU-TN Requests Permanent Removal of Ten Commandments Display in Rutherford County Courthouse

December 1, 2005: ACLU-TN Alerts School Superintendents/High School Principals about Religious Freedom

May 5, 2005: ACLU-TN Responds to National Day of Prayer

January 29, 2004: ACLU-TN Files Lawsuit Challenging the Posting of the Ten Commandments in Monroe County

August 25, 2003: ACLU-TN Alerts School Superintendents about Religious Freedom

June 25, 2002: Victory for Religious Freedom in Rutherford County

May 3, 2002: MEDIA ADVISORY: Preliminary Injunction Hearing in ACLU-TN Lawsuit Challenging the Posting of the Ten Commandments in Rutherford County Set for May 6

May 30, 2002: Victory for Religious Freedom in Hamilton County

April 25, 2002: MEDIA ADVISORY: ACLU-TN Lawsuit Challenging the Posting of the Ten Commandments in Hamilton County Goes to Trial April 29

April 18, 2002: ACLU-TN Challenges Posting of Ten Commandments in Rutherford County Courthouse

January 29, 2002: ACLU-TN Files Lawsuit Challenging the Posting of the Ten Commandments in Hamilton County


Legislative Alerts

May 11, 2009: Reproductive Freedom, Free Speech, Privacy and More at Stake at the Legislature This Week

May 4, 2009: Legislative Alert: Privacy, LGBT Rights, Religious Freedom, Reproductive Freedom, Voting Rights and Equal Treatment Under the Law at Stake

April 27, 2009: Legislative Alert: Free Speech, LGBT Rights, Reproductive Freedom, Immigrants' Rights and More

April 13, 2009: Legislative Alert: Contact Your Legislators on Free Speech, LGBT Rights, Religious Freedom, Immigrants' Rights and More

April 6, 2009: Legislative Alert: Busy Week at the Legislature - Please Contact Legislators ASAP

May 9, 2008: ACLU-TN Chart of 2008 TGA Bills Related to Religious Freedom

April 14, 2008: Voice Your Opinion on Several Pending Civil Liberties/Civil Rights Bills!

ACLU-TN Legislative Chart: Religious Freedom, 104th TGA, 2005 - 2006 (30 KB)

November 13, 2003: Stop Proposed "God Resolution" - Knox County Vote on Monday; CALL all commissioners NOW!!!

April 22, 2002: Effort to Bring Prayer to School - Call Senate Education Committee and your State Senator

February 11, 2002: Urge Tennessee General Assembly not to support Voluntary School Prayer Amendment

July 16, 2001: New Government-Funded Religion Action Alert - Send a free fax from National ACLU

May 23, 2001: Pending school voucher amendments in US House

February 19, 2001: "In God We Trust" -- HB 220 incorporates national motto onto state flag


Past Events

March 28, 2004: Barry Lynn to Speak on "One Nation under Whose God" on Sunday in Nashville


Current Docket



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Religious Freedom in Public Schools

Religious Freedom in the Workplace

Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools - A Guide for Administrators and Teachers

pdf Letter to Public School Superintendents Regarding Holiday Celebrations

pdf Letter to Public School Superintendents Regarding Religion in Schools

Religious Freedom - National ACLU




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