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Establishment Clause

One of two clauses in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that address religion. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the clause to mean that the federal government is prohibited from declaring and financially supporting a national religion, preferring one religion over another, or even religion over non-religion. Religious conservatives argue that the specific wording of the Establishment Clause does not prohibit the federal government from engaging in certain religious activities, such as promoting prayer in public schools or posting the Ten Commandments in public spaces. On the other side is the argument that the Establishment Clause carries a broader meaning as set out in the writings by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that suggest “a wall of separation” between church and state. See Free Exercise Clause.

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