MYTH 6: The First Amendment's religion clauses were intended only to prevent the establish

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MYTH 6: The First Amendment's religion clauses were intended only to prevent the establishment of a national church. If all the framers wanted to do was ban a national church, they had plenty of opportunities to state exactly that in the First Amendment. In fact, an early draft of the First Amendment read in part, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief, nor shall any national religion be established...." This draft was rejected. Following extensive debate, the language found in the First Amendment today was settled on. The historical record indicates that the framers wanted the First Amendment to ban not only establishment of a single church but also "multiple establishments," that is, a system by which the government funds many religions on an equal basis. A good overview of the development of the language of the First Amendment is found in scholar John M. Swomley's 1987 book Religious Liberty and the Secular State. Swomley shows that during the House of Representatives' debate on the language of the religion clauses, members specifically rejected a version reading, "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination in preference to another...." The founders wanted to bar all religious establishments; they left no room for "non- preferentialism," the view touted by today's accommodationists that government can aid religion as long as it assists all religions equally. (The Senate likewise rejected three versions of the First Amendment that would have permitted non-preferential support for religion.) Provided by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 8120 Fenton Street, Silver Spring MD 20910; 301-589-3707. Copyright (C) 1994 New address: Americans United, 1816 Jefferson Place, Washington, DC 20036-2505; 202-466-3234.


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