Sally Chen

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20202021 Forum on Choice

Sally Chen

Executive Board, Wolf Undergraduate Humanities Forum
Political Science

CAS, 2021

Sally is a senior from Philadelphia, PA. She studies Political Science, Economic Policy, History and Legal Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her current academic interests lie in the study of law especially in relation to the governance of freedom and religious subjects, feminist agency, and the history of US-China relations. Her other interests include contemporary fiction, biking through the city, taking pictures of beautiful skies, and watching romantic-comedies. At Penn, she is involved with Spice Collective, Sangam, 34th Street Magazine, and the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. Sally would like to thank the Wolf Humanities Center for their on-going commitment to making the humanities more inclusive and her advisor, Professor Jolyon Thomas, for all his guidance, patience, and infectious enthusiasm for the discipline of Religious Studies. 

Is it All a Mirage? Religious Freedom and False Choice in America

Religious Freedom is one of the founding ideals of the United States. The right to practice any or no religion is enshrined in the First Amendment and was one of the chief reasons for the settlement of early colonies. However, is free choice of religion actually empirically possible? Or do legal precedents set by the U.S. judicial system, such as in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, circumscribe the religious decisions individuals may make or even access, creating a presentation of false choice? In an attempt to address these questions and delineate the legal and conceptual limits of “religious freedom,” this project will examine religion-related Supreme Court cases that have shaped the landscape of political and religious choice in America.