Religious freedom is not only one of our most treasured liberties, but it is also a fundamental human right and a defining feature of our national character. Given this nation’s robust, longstanding commitment to freedom of religion and belief, it is no surprise that the United States is among the most religious and religiously diverse nations in the world. Indeed, religious liberty is alive and well in this country precisely because our government cannot tell us whether, when, where, or how to worship, and because our government cannot take sides on matters of faith.
Recognizing the importance of religious freedom, our founders set forth the Establishment Clause as the very first freedom enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is a guarantee that the government will neither prefer religion over non-religion nor favor particular faiths over others.
Unfortunately, the government sometimes strays from this ideal by, for example, using taxpayer dollars to support religious activities, erecting religious symbols on government land, or discriminating on the basis of religion in government programs. These actions violate the Establishment Clause, which recognizes that religious freedom thrives best when the government stays out of it. Matters of religious belief should be left to individuals and faith communities, not to governments or political majorities.