I have signed into law S.J. Res. 102, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. This legislation sets forth the policy of the United States to protect and preserve the inherent right of American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiian people to 'believe, express, and exercise their traditional religions. In addition, it calls for a year's evaluation of the Federal agencies' policies and procedures as they affect the religious rights and cultural integrity of Native Americans.
It is a fundamental right of every American, as guaranteed by the first amendment of the Constitution, to worship as he or she pleases. This act is in no way intended to alter that guarantee or override existing laws, but is designed to prevent Government actions that would violate these constitutional protections. In the past, Government agencies and departments have on occasion denied Native Americans access to particular sites and interfered with religious practices and customs where such use conflicted with Federal regulations. In many instances, the Federal officials responsible for the enforcement of these regulations were unaware of the nature of traditional native religious practices and, consequently, of the degree to which their agencies interfered with such practices.
This legislation seeks to remedy this situation.
I am hereby directing that the Secretary of the Interior establish a Task Force comprised of representatives of the appropriate Federal agencies. They will prepare the report to the Congress required by this resolution, in consultation with native leaders. Several agencies, including the Departments of Treasury and Interior, have already taken commendable steps to implement the intent of this resolution.
I welcome enactment of this resolution as an important action to assure religious freedom for all Americans.