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Sacred Places - Religious Freedom for Native People

  • Broadcast in Culture
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Do Native People have the same rights of religious freedom as other Americans? The courthouse door is locked to Native Americans when they seek to right the wrongs done when their sacred places of worship were desecrated. Our guest Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) will talk about Native American Sacred Places, and the reason why the National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places was created. Observances and ceremonies were held across the country from June 18 through June 23. “Ceremonies are being conducted as Native American peoples engage in legal struggles with federal agencies that side with developers that endanger Native sacred places,” said Ms. Harjo. “Once again, we call on Congress to build a door to the courts for Native nations to protect our traditional churches. Many sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them.” All other peoples in the United States can use the First Amendment to protect their churches, but the Supreme Court closed that door to Native Americans in 1988. The Court, from 1988 to 2009, has declined to allow federal religious freedom statutes to be used to protect Native American sacred places or the exercise of Native American religious freedom at sacred places. Ms. Harjo is President of The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization founded in 1984 for Native Peoples’ traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research. A leader in cultural rights protection and stereotype busting, Morning Star sponsors the Just Good Sports project, and organizes the National Prayer Day for Sacred Places as well as other events.