By Robert A. Vella
The very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as part of the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791, states that:
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.
This separation of church and state was intended and repeatedly affirmed to ensure two things for the new nation: 1) that the United States government would be formally secular, and 2) that United States citizens could legally practice their various religions freely and without interference from other religions. In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes…
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