What was the original meaning of the “establishment” clause?


Final Exam Due 20 July

 Answer the following questions in a single 1250-1750 word essay (typed, double-spaced, 10 or 12 point font, one-inch margins). Your essay must be based on the assigned readings (ALL OF

 THEM) and must be documented with Turabian style footnotes and bibliography.

What was the original meaning of the “establishment” clause? Is that how we generally understand the clause today? What about the “free exercise” clause?

Was America more or less religious in the twentieth century than earlier?

Please follow all instructions closely and only use sources from the four books assigned.

 When doing citations in text for turabian please capitalize and underline the book titles.

You should have 4 separate books to cite from


Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause and American Religion in the 20th Century

American settlers came from various religious backgrounds, but during the colonial times, Anglicans predominated in the south, where the southern colonies had established the Church of England by law[1]. Also, the Roman Catholics dominated in Maryland, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Presbyterians in the middle colonies[2]. However, after independence, there was a widespread argument that there should be no nationally established church in the new nation. The Establishment Clause reflects this consensus, and it’s the first of the two religion clauses in the First Amendment that prohibits Congress from passing laws respecting the establishment of religion. According to the language of the clause, it only applies to the national government, although the Supreme Court extended this clause to the state governments in the 20th century[3]. This paper will compare the original meaning and the contemporary meaning of the Establishment Clause, discus the Free Exercise clause, and analyze American religion in the 20th century.

Regarding the original meaning of the Establishment Clause, it is absolute and disallows laws. Thus it is noteworthy that the clause prohibits beyond merely the establishment of religion by the national government. It also forbids laws that respect the establishment of religion and sets up a wall between the government and the operations and functions of religious institutions in American society[4]. This is because these Framers, especially James Madison, recognized that when the operations and functions of religious institutions and government roles intertwined, they could lead to either oppression, bloodshed, or both. Thus at an absolute minimum, the Establishment Clause was originally intended to forbid the national government from declaring a national religion like the case on many other nations during the founding.

However, after the Establishment Clause was applied in the states in the 20th century, it took up a new whole cause but a similar meaning to its original meaning. In Everson v. Board of Education in 1947, the Supreme Court ruled that clause is one of the liberties guaranteed by the 14th Amendment in the states[5]. From that ruling, all federal, state, and local governments’ actions nations had to abide by the clause. Thus no government was to favor or prefer a given religion over the other, participate in affairs of a given religion or force its people towards or against a given religion. Therefore, today, for some, the Establishment Clause means that no government should establish a single religion or prefer one over the other, while others believe that it forbids the governments from promoting religion in general as well as preferring or favoring one religion over the other.

Therefore, even with the extension of the Establishment Clause, the aim today remains to set up the wall of separation between the church and state as high as possible. The government should only concern itself with civil matters, while religious matters should be left at an individual’s conscience…………for help with this assignment contact us via email Address: consulttutor10@gmail.com


[2] Smith, Samuel C. A CAUTIOUS ENTHUSIASM, pp. 161-162.

[3] Peters, Shawn Francis. THE YODER CASE: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, EDUCATION, AND PARENTAL RIGHTS. Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003, p. 72.

[4] Peters, Shawn Francis. THE YODER CASE: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, EDUCATION, AND PARENTAL RIGHTS. Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003, p. 79.

[5] Peters, Shawn Francis. THE YODER CASE, p. 79.

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