"...no law respecting an establishment (n?) of religion,"

As the first amendment reads:

a number of suits lots of suits have been filed whenever any gov’t agency does something that would seem to proscribe or push or otherwise actively proffering religion.

But could the Constitution be read that what is being rejected is not the verb “establishment”, but the noun. That is Congress could pass a law that establises (v) a religion, but could not pass a law regarding a religous establishment (n).

Has this ever been tried in court?


Sorry, but I don’t understand this question. Establishment is a noun, not a verb: it is the noun that is the natural direct object of the verb establish. To establish a religion necessarily and inevitably results in an establishment of religion. Are you suggesting that establishment may have some different meaning for the first amendment’s purposes? If so, what are you suggesting that it may mean?

he’s saying what if it read like: …no law respecting a religious establishment…

But establishment as a noun still has (at least) two distinct meanings.

In one case it may mean “the act of establishing” (that is how I interpret the passage from the first amendment above).

In the second case it may refer to an actual entity. A church or religius group is an establishment. (**JC ** is asking if this interpretation has ever been applied in court.)

Okay. Still seems to me like a difference that makes no difference, but I won’t quibble. The answer is that, AFAIK, no published case has ever held that “establishment” has a meaning narrowly limited to some particular definition. The Supreme Court has held that

Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947), *quoted in Torcaso v. Watkins*, 367 U.S. 488, 492-93 (1961).

There is an excellent overview of Establishment Clause law online at FindLaw.