Respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
It’s controversial whether the intent of the writers and those who voted on this amendment was to ensure the “separation of church and state.” The literalist argument would say that this “Establishment Clause” was meant only guarantee no funding for a particular Church by the state. If the authors had meant “separation of church and state”, they could have used those words.
However, American courts have tended to find that this clause creates a higher standard than simple non-establishment of one specific religion. It also says that no religion may be preferenced by the state over any other, or over the non-adherence to any religion.
In a letter to a friend, James Madison wrote that “religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.” Based on this and other writings from the Founders about what they saw as the failure of the church/state relationships present in Europe, they weren’t too thrilled about mixing church and state too much.
Inspired by the Magna Carta establishment clause.
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