Rights of Conscience and Religious Belief

Religious Belief &
Conscience in the Classroom

Thoughts on Religious Belief & Rights of Conscience

Conscience is Sacred
Conscience is the most sacred of all property.
James Madison, essay on Property, March 29, 1792
A Precious Civil Right
The civil rights of none, shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.

James Madison, proposed amendment to the Constitution, given in a speech in the House of Representatives, 1789
Education Is No Exception
Individuals and organizations do not give up their religious-liberty protections by providing or receiving social services, education, or healthcare; by seeking to earn or earning a living; by employing others to do the same; by receiving government grants or contracts; or by otherwise interacting with federal, state, or local governments.
Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 206
The Divine Judgment Seat
Conscience is the representative within us of the divine judgment seat: it weighs our dispositions and actions in the scales of law which is holy and pure; we cannot deceive it, and lastly, we cannot escape it because, like the divine omnipresence, it is always with us.

Immanuel Kant
Protection from the "New Civil Religion"
The establishment and free exercise clauses should be read together to harmonize the importance of religious liberty with freedom from government regulation. Rather, today in our nation, the establishment clause is being used to restrict religious institutions from playing a role in civic issues, and the free exercise clause denies to individuals their religious liberty. It does not accord the equivalent to what the Constitution accords to secularism—the new civil religion.

James E. Faust, October 1992
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What is HB 348 Participation Waiver Amendments?


HB 348 Participation Waiver Amendments is a bill that was sponsored in the 2023 Utah State Legislative session by Representative Cheryl Acton and floor sponsored in the Senate by Senator Michael Kennedy

The bill was intended to align education code under 53G-10-205 Waivers of Participation with the Utah State Constitution, which in Article 1, Section 4, Religious Liberty, states, “The rights of conscience shall never be infringed.

HB 348’s most significant changes to 53G-10-205 include:

  • Prohibiting a school from denying a student or a student’s parent the right to waive a student’s participation in any aspect of school that violates a student’s or a student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.
  • Prohibiting a school from penalizing or discriminating against a student should the student refrain from participating in any aspect of school due to a religious belief or right of conscience.
  • Allowing, but not requiring, a school to provide an alternative that does not violate a student or student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.


The original language for 53G-10-205 was proposed in the 1993 Utah State Legislative session as 53A-13-101.2 Maintaining Constitutional Freedom in the Public Schools, and took effect in 1994. 

In that same year, the Utah State Board of Education enacted an administrative rule (which has the effect of law) on 53A-13-101.2, titled R277-105 Recognizing Constitutional Freedoms in the Schools.

In 2019, the state board staff secured support for repealing R277-105 in a meeting of the Law and Licensing standing committee, which then forwarded their recommendation for repeal to the full board, which passed the repeal unanimously.
The rationale given by the board for repealing the R277-105 rule it issued on 53G-10-205 was that:

[T]he "rule contains restatements of constitutional protections to students established in federal and state case law...[and] was originally drafted to provide guidance to LEAs who may not have sufficient familiarity with the principles...[however] administrative rules are not designed to provide legal guidance, but to establish requirements within an agency's authority and expertise. Therefore, this rule is repealed in its entirety."

Current Documents on Religious Belief and Rights of Conscience in schools

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Historical Documents on Religious Belief & Rights of Conscience in Schools

State Codes 53G-10-205 & 53G-10-203 PRIOR TO HB 348 (before May 2023)

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Videos on Religious Belief & Rights of Conscience


Law & Licensing USBE Repeal Vote on R277-105

Full USBE Board Repeal Vote on R277-105






Utah State Board Discussion on HB 348—March 2023