The first part of the First Amendment to the Constitution deals with religion:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
With these sixteen words, the framers of the Constitution ensured that the new government of the United States would not and could not create a national church or religion as Henry VIII had done in England. These words also ensure what many refer to as “freedom of religion” or “religious liberty”. Equally as important is that these sixteen words also guarantee freedom from religion. The new government could not require or force any citizens to belong to and financially support any religion. Freedom from religion was to the citizens creating a new government, and is to us, just as important as freedom of religion.
Forced religion was a problem in the Colonies prior to gaining independence from England. In Massachusetts Bay Colony, in particularly, the Puritan religious leaders exercised a great deal of control in the cities and towns. They had no tolerance for dissenters. Both Connecticut and Rhode Island were established by men who who did not agree with Puritan leaders.
Maryland was created as a safe haven for Catholics who were looked upon with disdain by the Anglicans, Pilgrims and Puritans in the Colonies. Pennsylvania was also established as a colony which offered religious toleration to those who did not follow the Anglican tradition or the Puritan beliefs. The southern Colonies remained faithful to the Anglican religion which meant that the citizens in those colonies were required to financially support their local churches.
The Framers of the Constitution, regardless of their own individual beliefs, chose to leave religion out of that document and include an amendment which prohibited the creation of a national religion. Unfortunately, even the first sixteen words of the First Amendment has not stopped various religious groups from attempting to influence voting and legislation based not on the law, but on their own religious beliefs. In sermons and homilies and television broadcasts from Churches throughout the country, priests, pastors and televangelists use their pulpits to command their parishioners to vote conservatively and oppose legislation which is, in the opinion of religious leaders, contrary to their interpretations of the Bible.
If the Framers had wanted Congress, the President and the Judiciary to enact, pass and review legislation based on religious views and the Bible, they would have put it in the Constitution. Instead they deliberately kept religion out of the government and so must we.