The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution :
"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."
The Establishment Clause is the part of the 1st Amendment that says Congress shall make no law "respecting an establishment of religion." This is a very crucial part of the American Constitution. It prohibits the government from establishing a state religion or denomination and from directing people in what they must believe.
Without the Establishment Clause, the government could choose a state religion and force everyone to participate in it. It could also punish anyone who didn't adhere to its chosen faith.
This clause has been the focus of much debate in the last half century. Some Americans believe that whenever the government is involved, absolutely all religious expression must be forbidden in order to comply with the Establishment Clause.
For example, they might say a public school football team should not pray at a football game because the school is a government funded school.
Other Americans believe the government must make certain allowances for religious expressions in public events and buildings because Americans are a very religious people. They believe a high school football team prayer or a government employee displaying a cross at work does not violate the Establishment Clause because it is simply a personal expression and not an expression endorsed by the state.
The Free Exercise Clause is the part of the 1st Amendment that says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or "the free exercise thereof." This phrase deals with the restriction on Congress to regulate anyone's religious practices.
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