How is the Establishment Clause understood?
Originally the Establishment Clause applied only the federal government. It prevented the federal government from creating an official state church. At the time of the adoption of the U. S. Constitution several states officially preferred one religious group over others. The first Amendment was not understood to interfere with the right of a state or municipality to endorse officially or support financially a religious faith. With the passage of the 14th Amendment the First Amendment came to be applied to the states as well, preventing any government entity from showing preference for one religious group over others. This was affirmed by the U. S. Supreme Court in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). As suggested above, the original purpose of the establishment clause was to protect minority religious groups from the pressure of the majority to accept religious views contrary to their conscience. The First Amendment was not originally understood to create a “wall of separation” betwee