“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” — The First Amendment.

This very important language from the Bill of  Rights has been misused and misconstrued for decades to mean that there should be no interchange at all between religious belief and governmental action.  The truth of the matter is that the freedom of religion was listed to protect religion and individual liberty from government overreaching, not to prohibit religious expression in public or on government property.

The Constitution was written by people from different colonies, experiences, and religions.  One main reason the immigrants left Europe and came to America was to escape oppression and tyranny including compulsory state religion.  For many centuries the government and religion were so intertwined as to make them the same entity for practical purposes.  It was the Emperor Constantine that united the Christian Churches under a common theology at the point of a sword and entrenched the power of the Catholic Church for more than a millennium.

After fighting a war for independence and securing their liberties from England, the States stumbled along under the Articles of Confederation for a few years before finally drafting and accepting the Constitution of the United States with the promise that a  Bill of Rights would be forthcoming.  The Bill of Rights was ratified just a couple years later.

The Bill of Rights was drafted as amendments to the Constitution as a sop to the people who were concerned that the new government was too powerful and would encroach on the liberties of the people much like England did in the decades prior to the Revolution.  The Bill of Rights is to protect the people from government, not the government from people.

Before the very tolerant United States were founded many nations had a state religion where the head of state, be it a Duke, Earl, Prince, or King would name and control the leadership of the parish.  Land grants from the aristocracy would be given to “the Church” with rights to name the leader of the parish.  You can see where this might lead to government control of religion in sermons and attitudes.  Freedom of Religion was named in the First Amendment to prevent this kind of governmental meddling in the religious affairs of the people it being a matter between a free person and their God.

In recent years we have been fed the line that we need the government to be protected from religious people.  The First Amendment has been used to argue that religious views have no place in public discourse or in the public square.  This turns the intent of the Bill of Rights upside-down.  It is as if we decided that because we have a protection against unreasonable search and seizure in the Fourth Amendment we need to make sure people do not exercise that right against the government but only in their own homes.

The government is to leave religion alone, not the other way around.

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