- Main Article: First Amendment
Religious freedom in the United States was established by way of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The first 10 amendments, which were all ratified on December 15, 1791, are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution (1787) initially said little about religion (aside from Article VI, which stated that "no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification" for federal office holders, the Constitution). This troubled two groups of Americans--those who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some colonies, exerted pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress. In September 1789 the Congress adopted the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion"
The Bill of Rights was subsequently amended to the Constitution by many who wanted freedom of religion secured. James Madison who led the Bill through the First Congress, proposed an amendment on June 8th 1789 to relieve the anxieties of those who feared that religious freedom would be endangered by the unamended Constitution. According to The Congressional Register, on June 8 Madison moved that "the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed".
The text of the first amendment is 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.||”|
- Religion and the Federal Government by the U.S. Library of Congress
- First Amendment--Religion and Expression United States Senate
- Religious Freedom U.S. State Department
- Religion and the Founding of the American Republic by the U.S. Library of Congress