The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States imparts to every citizen, the right to freedom of religion and worship. This First Amendment right was later supplemented in the case of Native Americans through the passage of legislation such as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIFRA) adopted in 1978 and the which upheld the rights of the Native Americans to freely practice their religion, with the concomitant observance of all necessary religious rituals and ceremonies. The which was passed on November 16, 1990, designates “burial site” as a physical location where individual human remains are deposited as a part of the death rite (Act 1990). Hence, the sacredness of land in Native American religious belief is all tied up with the graves that exist upon the land. But under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, developers are encouraged to preserve the archaeological significance of sites, but it is not a mandatory requirement. They can build over the site, but only on the condition that the artifacts and valuable objects that are found are documented.[Bprgatta, 2002].But in the case of Lyng vs. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (1988), the courts dismissed the AIRFA, that guaranteed religious freedom to the Indian tribes as a “policy statement (Report 1999). The issue was the construction of a road by the Government Forest Service including logging, through land which was deemed sacred by three Native American tribes. The Court ruled against the Native American tribes, stating that they had no right to stop the Forest department from logging through their lands. But this raises the issue of the First Amendment right to freedom of the native American tribes. The most important aspect of the First Amendment to religion is that every individual has the right to freedom of religion.In the case of the Native Americans, their religion also encompasses the preservation of lands that they consider sacred as burial sites.
* Bprgatta, Tina (2002): Prehistoric Indian carving imperiled by housing project.” Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2002.
* Carter, Stephen (2000). “Beyond Neutrality”. Excerpted from God’s Name in Vain: The wrongs and rights of religion in politics. [Online] Available at: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1964; accessed 11/1/2005
* Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (as amended) (1990): Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001
* Rapporteur Report. (1999). “Religious intolerance in the United States” [Online] Available at: http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/intolerance.html; accessed 11/1/2005
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