The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” This provision guarantees that each American has the right to worship in their chosen way – or not to worship at all; the federal government cannot choose our religion for us.
“There was some concern among the Founders lest this prohibition give the impression that the government was hostile to religion. They wanted it clearly understood that the universal, self-evident truths of religion were fundamental to the whole structure of the American system. This is such an important aspect of the nation’s original culture that a comprehensive discussion of religion from the Founders’ perspective might be helpful.” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 675.)
Skousen then proceeded to write more than twelve pages explaining the role of religion to our Founding Fathers. I will probably revisit this topic in later posts on the Constitution.
John Baker at The Heritage Foundation explained, “In recent years the Supreme Court has placed the Establishment and the Free Exercise of Religion Clauses in mutual tension, but it was not so for the Framers. None of the Framers believed that a governmental connection to religion was an evil in itself. Rather, many (though not all) opposed an established church because they believed that it was a threat to the free exercise of religion. Their primary goal was to protect free exercise….
“Nor did most of the Founding generation believe that government ought to be `untainted’ by religion, or ought not to take an interest in furthering the people’s connection to religion…” (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 302).