What does the Constitution say?The phrase " separation of church and state," has been bandied about in our society for so long most people are dumbfounded to learn that neither the phrase or its concept as it is presently used can be found anywhere in the founding documents of the United States of America. The phrase " separation of church and state," doesn't appear in any government document of the United Sates. Not the Declaration, Constitution or the Bill of Rights. This reality being the case, what do these documents have to say about freedom of religion? In the 1st amendment we see mention of religion. Congress shall make no law; (1) respecting an establishment of religion, or (2) prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So, this 1st amendment is a very important part of both our Constitution and our constitutional law. These two aspects of the 1st amendment came the phrase " separation of church and state."
Many constitutional scholars debate this claim. Firstly, the governing branch of this issue is identified. Congress. Secondly, it defines the activity that Congress is forbidden to do. Make no laws, respecting religion or the freedom to practice or not to practice. Let's take a moment to explore what this means. In this writer's view, these proclamations were placed first for a reason. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble are all basic tenants of our culture. With that said, it's also important to understand there are two parts to this equation. Not to establish and not to stop the exercise of religious views one way or the other.
Its important to note that there were other variations under consideration at the time these issues were being debated by our founding fathers.
- No religion shall be established by law. (House Select Committee-7-28-1789)
- Congress shall make no law touching religion. (Proposed during House debate- 8-15-1789)
- Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or mode of worship or prohibiting free exercise of religion. (Senate Version 9-9-1789)
What is very evident with any fair evaluation of the data and history is that Congress would not set up any national religion, denomination, or church. Moreover, that Congress would not set up any "state controlled " church. There is no ambiguity concerning these matters our founding fathers were empathic that government was to stay out of religion and vice versa. The scope here is specific. The Executive branch nor the Judicial branch were even mentioned. And, here is why. If no laws are to be passed by Congress then, there will be no laws for the President to enforce, and no laws to be interpreted by the courts. The bottom-line is the Federal government has no jurisdiction to intervene of matters of religion and for the most was left to the States, Cities, and local communities. Nor, does religion or religious factions have jurisdiction to intervene is the affairs of " We The People." [Government]