Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Lise Schreier, Ph.D.


The freedom of religion and the freedom from religion are notably different freedoms that result in different modes of implementation, protection, and limitation. On one hand, the United States focuses on the freedom of religion, or the freedom of an individual to practice their religion in the public sphere. This can easily be seen through the emphasis the United States places on students’ right to religious expression in public schools, protected through both judicial decisions and legislation such as the Equal Access Act. On the other hand, France focuses on the freedom of religion, or the freedom of an individual to go about their daily life in a secular space. This can also be seen through the emphasis France places on secularism in public schools, particularly through Law No. 2004-228. This paper focuses on French and American constitutional law, the freedom of religious expression, and human rights law. This paper first focuses on the legislative and constitutional overviews of France and the United States to show the historical differences between French and American treatment of religion in the public sphere. This paper then focuses on religion and expression in the public, specifically comparing the Equal Access Act and Law No. 2004-228. Finally, this thesis places French and American religious law in the context of international human rights law to show that human rights are not absolute, and the implementation and protection of human rights depends on the historical and legal perception of human rights. Overall, this paper answers philosophical and practical questions regarding the role of the principle of the separation of church and state in France and the United States.