The Truth About the First Amendment
This is called The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This is the entire law of the U.S. Constitution that deals with church and state. It is easy to understand. It is easy to interpret.
The Founding Fathers of the United States who wrote the Constitution and the States that ratified it had one thing in mind. They did not want a government church. The Church of England (Anglican, or Episcopal Church) was the official government church of England. Our Founding Fathers placed this clause in the Constitution to prevent this from happening.
The Founding Fathers who wrote and ratified the Constitution did not oppose Bible reading or prayer in schools. They did not oppose worship services or expressions of faith in public buildings and lands. These were common in the early years of our Republic. They could have prohibited it. They did not prohibit it. Instead, many of the same Founding Fathers who produced the Constitution participated in public expressions of faith on public property.
The Establishment Clause is one of the simplest parts of the Constitution to read, understand and follow. To further clarify the meaning of this clause, all we have to do is look at the way the Founding Fathers expressed their faith in God in official capacities and on public property. They would have been banned from many of their practices by today’s courts.
Note that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution has two parts:
- Congress is prohibited from making a law that establishes an official State Religion of the United States.
- Congress is prohibited from interfering with the free exercise of religion
Who is restricted?
Congress. Not cities that want to have manger scenes or other Christian Christmas decorations. Not courthouses that display the Ten Commandments, not school principals who allow prayer in graduation exercises. Not even federal government agencies. Not government employees who want to say “Merry Christmas.” The only people who are restricted by the First Amendment are the members of Congress while acting in their official position of enacting laws.
What are they restricted from doing?
They are restricted from passing certain laws – new laws – concerning religion. That’s all. The First Amendment – or the entire Constitution for that matter – contain no other restrictions concerning religion and the official public acknowledgment of God in public and governmental life. There is no way an intelligent honest person can make it to mean anything else. Period.
What kinds of laws is Congress forbidden from enacting?
There are 2 kinds of laws that Congress is forbidden to enact:
A. A Law that establishes a religion as an official religion of the government and the people of the United States.
Our Founding Fathers saw the abuses that had been commited by the Catholic State-Church system in some European countries and of the Anglican State Church system in England that had limited religious freedom and persecuted dissenters. Our Constitution is our guarantee that the Federal Government would never create a State Religion that would limit the freedom of people to practice other religions – or no religion at all.
B. A law that prohibits citizens from choosing a religion and practicing it.