Separation of Church and State
Freedom of religion was established in the First Amendment to the Constitution along with other fundamentals rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom to the press, to guarantee an atmosphere of absolute religious liberty. Diverse faiths have flourished in America since the founding of the republic, largely because of the prohibition of government regulation or endorsement of religion. Traditions, holidays, and religious values free from government control form an integral part of our national culture. The wall separating church and state must be maintained to guarantee the continued vitality of religion in American life.
The phrase “separation of church and state” was first used by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to express the intent of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The framers of the U.S. Constitution were concerned about the power of the church in England. They felt that religious freedom in America would avoid the religious intolerance and the religiously-inspired bloodshed that had marked much of the history of Europe. A church-state separation was their best assurance that America would remain relatively free of interreligious disputes. The two centuries of relative religious peace in the U.S. have shown that they were right. In 1789, the first of ten amendments were written to the Federal Constitution; they are since known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." This was ratified by the States in 1791. Although the term “church and state” is in near universal use throughout North America, it can still be confusing. The principle actually involves separation of religion, not just churches, from government....
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