Intent of the First Amendment
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution reads as follows:
"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."
This discussion deals only with the first part of the Amendment, the section concerning religious freedom:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Note that the First Amendment does NOT say, or even imply, that its purpose is to keep God out of public life. Instead, it simply means that the federal Government is not to establish an official state religion by any law or decree (“Congress shall make no law…”). This concept was radical, since every country in Europe had either a Protestant denomination or the Roman Catholic Church as its official state religion. When you have an official state religion or denomination, people generally have to pay taxes to support it, whether they want to or not. Moreover, those who weren’t members of the state religion were often persecuted or treated as second-class citizens. The Founders wanted to avoid all that, especially since many people had already come to our shores seeking religious freedom.
The second part of this section of the First Amendment states that the federal government will not interfere with the free exercise of religion. That means everybody is free to practice his or her religion without any governmental interference. Yet for the past 60 years the Supreme Court has done exactly what this Amendment prohibits: making laws limiting religious expression.