The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the Consitution of the United States 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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government of a redress of grievances.” The Supreme Court has held that the first phrase is not applicable when the free exercise takes a form of activity thought to be antisocial or self-destructive (e.g., polygamy, snake-handling, or refusal to be vaccinated). In the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education decision, the court interpreted the law as an intention to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” Since then, the court has invalidated religious instruction, Bible reading, and prescribed prayers in the public schools; however, the payment of public funds for the busing of children to parochial schools was ruled acceptable.