The first Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids the creations of any laws regarding the respect of an establishment of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, impeding the free exercise of religion, interfering with the right to peaceable assemble, infringing on the freedom of the press, and prohibition the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.
The Amendment protect the freedom of religion from the hands of the government. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in one of his letters – “… 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 opinion…” Such beliefs stood behind the principle of separating the matters of religion from the governmental policy. The part of the first Amendment dealing with the matters of religion was further reinforced by the Establishment Clause, which stated “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The Establishment Clause was created by Fisher Ames.
Besides making a matter of practicing a certain religion solely a private matter, the Amendment also ensure the freedom of exercising it. The Amendment ensures that a citizen is not only free of the government’s control in this aspect, but is also free of any potential persecutions. A good example is the position of the Muslim faith after the terroristic acts of 9/11. Sure, the people have acquired even less trust in Islam than ever before, but the religion never received any limitations from the government on any level. If there was any protest, it came from the people. The Muslims were still free to attend mosques, the latter were not torn down or closed, and virtually nothing was done to hinder the position of the religion in any way, either de facto or de jure.
These two ways in which the First Amendment protects the religious freedoms complement each other perfectly. It could have been so that the government made the aspect of religion private for each person, but public displays of faith could have been prohibited. Instead, people receive full freedom in the matter. They can keep it private, but they are also entitled to expressing their beliefs and display their faith out in the open without fearing prosecution from the representatives of law enforcement. Be it Islam, Satanism or any other religion made up on the spot – as long as other norms and laws are not breached, the religious rights of each individual, including non-citizens, are protected.
These ways of protection differ quiet simply: the first way ensures the privacy while the other protects from any potential hindrances regarding the public display of a religious beliefs, outside of privacy (which includes building places of religious significance, organizing meetings, etc.).
The first Amendment provides perfect protection of religious rights as it covers all aspects – the right for the religious belief to remain a private affair, protection against government, and allowing to practice the religion freely out in the open.