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.
Lets take on the first clause today.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
What are the comments made by the founders regarding this issue?
James Madison: “The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”
President Thomas Jefferson: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
This does seem fairly straight forward. Throughout history, just about every religion has had it's moment of power. Most of the time the line between church and state became fuzzy or completely erased. In every instance I could find in my research, the church has used its power to promote it self and damage competing ideas.
The State is not innocent. Politicos have used the perceived legitimacy of the Church to secure power and wealth as well as banish, imprison and kill adversaries.
It has been said "A gentleman will neither discuss religion or politics." Why, because someone is going to get bloody. These are the two most powerful forces in the world. Between the two, they have shaped the majority of human history. When forces this powerful combine the only result has been bloodshed.
What religion are the American people?
Top Ten ORGANIZED Religions in the United States, 2001
[Nonreligious, Atheist, Agnostic have been dropped from this list.]
Unitarian Universalist 0.3%
Native American Religion 63 0.05%
This shows why nearly all 1st Amendment lawsuits are against the Christian majority, in defence of the 23.5% non-Christan minority.
What are some of the current issues dealing with this part of the 1st amendment?
I am all for people engaged in all types of philosophical thought and discussion. Those who believe in the Native American belief that the earth is supported on the back of a turtle, they should seek evidence and engage in discussion. Likewise those who believe the universe was created in 6 days by a Deity, they should conduct research and host discussion. However this is done at your expense, done in your church or open public forum. This is entirely consistent with the 1st Amendment.