First Amendment: Religion—Establishment

The First Amendment has two clauses related to religion: one preventing the government establishment of religion (the “Establishment Clause”) and the other protecting the ability to freely exercise religious beliefs (the “Free Exercise Clause”). Students examine the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause—why it was included in the Bill of Rights, the issues it addresses, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it over time.

Essential Questions:

  • Why was the Establishment Clause important to the Founding generation?
  • How has the Establishment Clause shaped the role of religion in our government and society?
  • How has the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Clause provided a legal framework for evaluating these issues?

Get Started:

Freedom of Religion Video Part One:  Classroom Materials:

Download the Lesson Plan

Explore The Interactive Constitution:

Common Interpretation Matters of Debate

By Marci A. Hamilton and Michael McConnell

The Establishment Clause: A Check on Religious Tyranny
By Marci A. Hamilton

The Establishment Clause: Co-Guarantor of Religious Freedom
By Michael McConnell


Continue the Conversation:

Sign Up for an Exchange Explore the First Amendment

Sign up now to discuss big constitutional questions with a classroom elsewhere in the United States.  The Center will pair you with a classroom, connect you with an expert moderator, and set up videoconferencing sessions.

Sign-up Click here for more information >>

Explore more clauses of the First Amendment with our Two Week Plan of Study.

Sign up for our email newsletter