The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” Notwithstanding the First Amendment, Congress passed a law that establishes religions of native American Indians.
In 2002, Samuel Wilgus, a non-Indian, was prosecuted for illegal possession of eagle feathers under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Eagle Act. Wilgus received training in the Native American Church and was given the feathers as a gift. Eagle feathers are an important part of many native religions, but currently, only American Indians have the right to use and posses eagle feathers. This poses a problem for non-native followers of Indian religions. Should someone like Wilgus have the same right to posses eagle parts as Indian practitioners?