We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
--Declaration of Independence
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
--First Amendment, U.S. Constitution
These words ring loud and clear to every American. All schoolchildren, citizens, or those wanting to become citizens of the United States have heard these pronouncements, memorized them, and made them part of their very outlook on life. This is not surprising since the United States is essentially a nation that respects and promotes religious freedom. Even the founding of some of the English colonies, especially in cases such as Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Maryland, was for religious toleration, or at the very least, religious freedom was granted. The Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution eventually stated what had been an intrinsic element of America's soul.
Throughout its history, moreover, the United States continued to commit itself to religion and religious freedom, although a small minority has openly spoken against it. Our political system does guarantee the separation of church and state, although today the extent of that separation is being challenged, for example, by high school students in Mississippi who recently protested the Supreme Court's ruling against school prayer, by the "moral majority" demands that they be allowed to express their worship of God, and by television evangelists who openly blame America's problems of violence and family breakdown on a decline in people's commitment to religion. In the 1996 presidential election, the Christian coalition, moreover, not only took an active role in the presidential primaries for both parties but even openly campaigned until the November election for candidates the coalition believed supported their positions on a variety of issues. Church and state,