State/Church FAQ

Q. Where is the separation of church and state in the United States Constitution?

The separation of government from religion is enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution: 

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.

Our Chapter’s goal is to assure adhesion to this constitutional principle by identifying and reporting all possible violations to FFRF.

Q. Can we stop religious violations in Upstate New York?

Yes. Through litigation, education and other advocacy, each year FFRF ends hundreds of violations, such as prayers and proselytizing in public schools and events, public funding for religious purposes and placing religious symbols on public property.  

Q. Where do I find possible religious violations?

Religious violations occur throughout Upstate New York. They include prohibited religious practices in public schools; forced religious oaths; court-ordered participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a religious program; political activities by churches; attempts at establishing a national religion; subjecting military personnel to religious proselytizing; giving religious speeches during flag-folding ceremonies; granting v(ouch!)ers to religious schools (for example, Upstate New York Freethinkers are investigating New York State funding religious schools↗).

Q. Do I have to say an oath to god or put my hand on a bible?

RELIGIOUS OATHS are violating and they can be in Immigration Oaths, Jury Duty Oaths, Marriage Oaths and other oaths.

No. Religious oaths, such as Citizenship Oaths, Jury Duty Oaths, Marriage Oath and others, violate the First Amendment. If you are confronted with a religious oath or asked to put your hand on a bible, inform the judge or relevant authority that you want to make an affirmation and would be glad to place your hand on the U.S. Constitution instead.

Q. What is an alternative affirmation?

An affirmation is a solemn vow by the signer that has no pledge to a higher power but to the signer’s personal honor. Since both have the same legal effect, the signer may choose whether to make an oath or an affirmation. This is valuable for anyone who has conscientious scruples against swearing an oath to a deity. (This can include not only unbelievers, but some Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Buddhists, etc.) 

Q. What does FFRF National advise if you object to taking an oath?

FFRF national says, “If you are confronted with a written religious oath, copy the pertinent guarantees from the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Enclose the documentation of your rights with the signed oath, but cross out “so help me God” before you sign it. Or, request a secular version. Prior to the naturalization ceremony, contact officials and let them know you will need to take a secular affirmation. This is usually done as a group so you will have to arrange for an alternate affirmation in advance, but the law (and the Constitution) is on your side.” Learn more at↗

Learn how to Report possible State/Church Violations.