Religion and the free exercise thereof

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution begins with the line, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. A concept which has been under attack since the nineteen eighties but has come under intensified assault since the election of Donald Trump.

Establishment of Religion

Books have been written on what the founders meant but the religious freedom clause is easier to understand broken into two sections. The first part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is there to prohibit a state religion. The founders were very aware of the Church of England’s influence over Great Britain.

Bishops and ministers in the Church of England swore an oath to remain faithful to the King. at the time of the revolution there wasn’t a bishop in the Colonies but the Anglican Church was attempting to establish one. For many this was not just an issue of religion but one of individual liberty. Many who had fled religious persecution were afraid it had followed them to the new land.