Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise Clauses


The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution begins as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The first clause is commonly called the Establishment Clause, and the second the Free Exercise Clause. Together they are commonly called the Religion Clauses. Their meaning, however, is a matter of considerable debate.

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Copyright © 2006 from the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties edited by Paul Finkelman. Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.