Religion and U.S. Government

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The role of Religion and U.S. Government has been a central Constitutional issue since the American Revolution.

American revolution

One of the causes of the revolution was fear that the British government was about to impose on the American colonies a bishop from the Anglican Church of England.

The Declaration of Independence acknowledges the existence of a God when it refers to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and says all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." That statement was inserted by the author, Thomas Jefferson, a Deist. Most Americans were Protestants; the Anglican Church of England, which had been the eestablished church in several colonies, was disestablished. That is, it was no longer supported by taxes. Massachusetts and Connecticut later dropped their taxpayer support of the Congregational Church, and the principle of legal separation of church and state became established.

Bill of Rights

James Madison in 1791 wrote the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, stating "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The first clause is referred to as the Establishment Clause, and the second the Free Exercise Clause. An informal letter that President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists, called the First Amendment as "a wall of separation between Church and State."[1]

Supreme Court

In recent decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has used the "Lemon test" as a means for determining whether or not a particular controversy causes excessive entanglement between government and religion, though in some cases has allowed religious icons (such as the Ten Commandments display in Texas.[2])

Public Opinion

Americans see their country as a predominantly Christian nation. A Pew Report showed 76% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats,and 67% of independents view the U.S. a Christian nation. Secular categories are the only subgroup in which fewer than a majority sees the U.S. as a Christian country. [3]

see also


  1. Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1, 1802. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  3. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, August 24, 2006. Retrieved June 7, 2007.