Separation of Church and state has been a topic seen by the Supreme Court over the past 150+ years. Our countries religious freedoms and how it’s interpreted have been debated by both sides with reasonable argument. The framers of our federal government had laid down a series of guidelines for a free and prosperous society. One of the most controversial clauses in the First Amendment of our Constitution where it states that no law will endorse a religion or prohibit the rights of the people to exercise their religious rights has been part of a national debate since the First Congress was in session.
Can you blatantly ignore a religion and make sure they don’t get any government funding for their schools because of their religious status? Is it constitutional to ignore drug laws because it is a person’s religious belief to use them in their practice? In this essay I will show through the Framer’s papers, early political debates and various Supreme Court cases to show why establishment clause and free exercise clause were put into the Constitution in order to “building a wall of eternal separation between Church & State.”
To understand what the Framer’s of the Constitution thought was an appropriate relationship between a government and a religious institution, we first should look at their own writings and speeches to understand what their belief on this issue had been. It is true that like most issues brought to the table at the Constitutional Convention, the issue of the religion in government had been a thoroughly argued topic among the Framers.
There is no doubt that the battle to structure the separation issue ended when the Constitutional Convention shut its doors. We saw a battle on both sides of total separation, total incorporation, and everything in between that put their say into the argument. The first major law that was brought up in favor of freedom of choice and separation of both institutions came from the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom”, a statute that was formed nine years after Thomas Jefferson had written on the issue. The statute open with the line, “Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free, That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments… beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion.” As a rebuttal to the argument that the government must show people the way to God through enforcing a law in the issue is not only an invasion of one’s right to choose, but even worse, is a slap in the face of their creator in the sense that they are trying to alter His blueprint when it comes to free will of the mind and whether one chooses to follow His plan or another diety’s. This comes up as a ringing endorsement of separation of church and state by closing out the Virginia statute by saying that, “all men shall be free to profess… their opinions in matters of Religion,...