The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The U. S. Supreme Court has interpreted this provision as guaranteeing two separate rights: (1) the right to live in a society where the government does not sponsor an official religion that dictates what God citizens must worship or what church they must attend; and (2) the right to exercise one’s own religious faith in accordance with his or her conscience free from governmental intrusion. The first right is protected by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, while the second right is protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Both clauses have their origins in American colonial history, and that history sheds light on the subsequent development of the First Amendment by state and federal courts.
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