“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Beginning with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, which declared religious tolerance for Christianity in the Roman empire, The Roman Catholic Church began some Fifteen Hundred years of political power and influence in Europe. Though papal authority was rejected by England’s monarchy and supplanted by The Church of England, the political power of religion continued. Even today, “Defender of the Faith” is a title belonging to the sovereign of England. The problem existing during these periods when religion and government were intertwined was that anyone who opposed the ruling class or their religion was branded a heretic, and punished to the satisfaction of the government and religious leaders.
Clearly, the intent of the First Amendment was not to stifle religion, but to guarantee religious freedom. This amendment guarantees government neutrality in matters of faith by specifically prohibiting actions that historically were used to prevent free exercise of religion. Government cannot establish a state religion forcing acceptance as did Constantine in Rome; government cannot abridge freedom of speech, silencing those preaching or teaching religion; government cannot prevent the use of the printing press to print Bibles or religious materials; government cannot prevent the people from peaceably assembling to worship or conduct religious affairs; government must receive petitions for redress of grievances in these matters, that is, government must act to stop any intervention of these freedoms.
Interestingly, prior to the Twentieth Century and World War II, the “social architects” made few rulings concerning the intent of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Perhaps, society understood full well that the First Amendment was instituted to protect citizens from oppression in the name of religion, such as existed under the rule of England’s monarchy in particular, and European monarchs in general.
Today, the First Amendment that was ratified to protect freedom of religion is being used to attack religion and religious values. The First Amendment was not written to empower or shield, secular news organizations, or pornographers, or filthy language, or riotous protests, or the banning of religious symbols.