Why Church-State Separation?

Americans have more religious freedom than any people in world history. We can choose what to believe; what to teach our children; how, where and when to worship; which causes to give money to; or even whether we want to get involved with religion at all. We have the separation of church and state to thank for this broadly based freedom.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this clause to mean that religion and government must stay separate for the benefit of both. The government holds no religious viewpoint and leaves all decisions about faith and religious practice to its citizens.

Church-state separation has worked very well in practice. Americans freely support an array of houses of worship and other religious institutions, our nation is religiously diverse and many faiths exist side by side with remarkably little sectarian conflict. Our government treats people of all faiths (and none) equally.

When our nation’s Founders separated religion and government, it was a revolutionary experiment. That experiment has been an extraordinary success. It’s made us the envy of the world, and Americans United wants to make sure that wise policy continues.

Religious freedom is a celebrated American tradition. Our Founders knew that mixing religion and government only caused civil strife, inequality and very often violence in pluralistic societies. For more than 300 years, church-state separation advocates have fought to keep the tradition moving forward. Thanks to these efforts, modern Americans enjoy more religious liberty than any people in the world.