- Establishment of religion
An establishment of religion is the phrase used by the framers of the U.S. Constitution to refer to any religion or religious organization.
Judaism, the Catholic Church, and the Church of Englandare all establishments of religion. Unfortunately, "establishment" is frequently misused as "establishing," but its use here is closer to a "dry cleaning establishment" than establishing anything. When the Constitution prohibits "respecting an establishment of religion," it is saying that one religious establishment cannot be given preference over another — there cannot be a state religionor a state church. And naturally from this it follows that the state cannot establish its own religion. [http://www.teachingaboutreligion.org/MiniCourse/Lesson1/1st_amendment.htm]
Although nowadays associated primarily with Islamic states (such as
Twelver Shia Islamin Iran), established religions have also been a hallmark of European countries. During the Protestant Reformation, the issue of which church was to be the established one was highly contentious, as Protestantand Catholicstates fought, not only each other, but also dissident factions within their borders on the basis of official religion. The importance of official religions in Europe gradually dwindled after the Reformation.
In some nations that still have an established church, the official status of the church is largely a technicality and freedom of religion is guaranteed. The
Church of Englandis an example. It is, however, also possible to have a national church which is not established, like the Church of Scotland, which has no constitutional links with the state. Some countries, such as Germanyand Finland, grant an official status to more than one church, with privileges such as the state collection of church taxes on their respective members.
United States, the Constitution not only forbids the establishment of religion but also guarantees individual freedom of religion ("free exercise"). This means the government cannot favor one faith over another. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the government cannot favor religion in general. In Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet[http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=U10355] , Justice Souter wrote in the opinion for the Court that: "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." [http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-517.ZS.html] Everson v. Board of Educationestablished that "neither a state nor the Federal Government can"..." pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another". Some have interpreted this to mean that the employment of chaplains in the military or by local police forces, even if all major denominations are represented, would be unconstitutional.
Separation of church and state
Separation of church and state in the United States
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.