Establishment Clause

The Establishment Clause is the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,...

The Establishment Clause was written by Congressman Fisher Ames in 1789, who derived it from discussions in the First Congress of various drafts that would become the amendments comprising the Bill of Rights. This clause is immediately followed by the Free Exercise Clause, which states:

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

These two clauses make up what are called the "Religion Clauses" of the First Amendment.

The Establishment Clause is a limitation placed upon the United States Congress preventing it from passing legislation respecting an establishment of religion. The second prohibition inherent from this specified prohibition is no preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another; an aim desired by the Founding Fathers necessary to accommodate all of the many denominations in the United States. The Establishment Clause prohibits Congress from preferring or elevating one religion over another, but does not prohibit the government's entry into religious domain to make accommodations for religious observances and practices in order to achieve the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause.

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