Almost all religions have some kind of sacred law. Sacred law derives its authority from God or the religion’s founder, appeals to the heart and conscience, and is a spiritual guide for the believer.
In America, the religion clauses of the First Amendment state that the government must protect itself from the imposition of any religion while at the same time protecting people’s rights to practice their own religion. (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”) This means that, in the United States, individuals, families, and religious and private groups are free to follow their own sacred laws, as long as:
- they do so voluntarily,
- people are free to join or leave these groups, and
- the freedom and rights of others are respected.
Secular law also provides parameters or limits on following sacred law, to ensure that the public interest is protected (e.g., the United States prohibited Mormons from practicing polygamy).