Columbia, SC — In Margaret Carlson’s March 30 op-ed column (“Hobby Lobby doesn’t have religious rights”), she wrote, “America was founded on the ‘separation of church and state.’” Wrong. This nation was founded by a deeply religious people who sought religious freedom from government intrusion and oppression.
Based on this fabricated mantra, our government continues to encroach upon our religious freedoms. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
“Separation of church and state” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. This strict separationist view is projected upon but not supported by the Constitution.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment makes this clear. Forbidding an official “establishment” of religion is very different from the much looser term “separation of church and state.”
The Constitution only forbids government sponsorship and compulsion of religious exercise by individual citizens. The strict separationist view also is at direct odds with the freedoms of speech and press also protected by the First Amendment.
The bottom line is that government can neither compel nor prohibit religious exercise.
It may neither officially authorize religious exercise nor forbid, punish or prevent its citizens’ voluntary religious exercise.