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Do religious groups have the freedom to worship in a public place (such as a mall) even...

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carissa21 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:38 AM via web

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Do religious groups have the freedom to worship in a public place (such as a mall) even if it is causing a scene? 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 28, 2012 at 12:51 AM (Answer #1)

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Although the answer to this could depend upon the details (what constitutes "causing a scene," for example), the general answer is that such groups do not have this right.

Public authorities may restrict the right to engage in religious worship or other actions such as speech so long as they do so based on content-neutral bases.  In other words, authorities cannot ban speech because of what is being said.  However, they can regulate speech based on the "time, place, and manner" of the speech.  In this case, the time, place and manner of the worship might allow it to be prohibited.  If the actions are being done in such a way as to cause excessive problems for public order or private property, they can be banned.  

So, if the "scene" that is being caused is judged to be excessive (there is no clear standard for how to determine this) problems, the worship can be prohibited so long as the authorities are not being biased against the religion based on the content of its worship.

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