Separation of Church and State Debate and Poll
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The Bill of Rights reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the rights of minorities from the majority. The purpose of separating religion from government assistance was precisely to protect religious freedom. The government has no business promoting one religion over all others, whether its establishing church or having tax supported teachers leading prayers.
The forefathers agreed that no denomination should be elevated by the state above another, and worked on the proper wording to express this. One draft stated "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed." In fact, the first amendment was meant to mirror the resolutions of the states, such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, whose constitutions stated, "And every denomination of Christians . . . shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law."
The Establishment Clause was drafted to keep the federal government out of the states' way on the subject of religion. That is why it bans laws "respecting an establishment of religion" -- it was phrased to prohibit both laws that set up a national church and also laws that might forbid established churches at the state level. Once again, it was certainly not passed to remove religion from public life. In fact, on the same day Congress proposed the First Amendment, it made provisions for hiring its own chaplain -- a practice that continues to the present.