The phrase separation of church and state captures a key constitutional principle of freedom from governmental interference with religion. Historically, however, the separation of religion from civic life at local, state, and federal levels in the United States has not been clear-cut. In the past as well as today, the nature and scope of this separation have generated intense political controversy and legal contestation. The constraints of civic life have conflicted with religious requirements concerning prayer in public schools, the public display of Christmas or Easter symbols in government buildings, and dress codes in the military or prisons. The increasingly varied expressions of religious diversity in contemporary public life mean that this relationship between the religious and civic spheres is far from settled. In short, ...

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