Dear Mr. Alexander,
I believe that you have confused the purpose of the First Amendment with the use to which people wish to put that amendment. The founders of this nation knew full well the dangers inherent in a government based on religion: no one more so, of record, than Thomas Jefferson who expressed a particular dislike and distrust for “priests.” ( Note: Herein, items in “ “s are meant to be generic, not specific).
The First Amendment was intended to allow people to worship their chosen god(s). It was not intended as blanket permission to behave as one likes, regardless of the origin of that behavior. In recent history, there is the example of those who have bombed abortion clinics and killed doctors who perform abortions. The perpetrators are sought as criminals and prosecuted if captured alive, not withstanding the justification that “God” told them to do it, or that the acts originated from religious beliefs.
Nor are those that are ordained in a religion absolved from doing wrong notwithstanding that the wrong was committed while exercising one of the perpetrator’s religious duties on “church” property. I offer the rampant sexual abuse of parishioners by “priests”, youth leaders and other church workers as an example.
While “church” works extending beyond the confines of the “church” structure have been characterized as ‘charitable’, often, the motivation is as much to proselytize as to do good deeds. One need only look for the very obvious religious symbols all about the service area, including on the providers, and to hear the prayers uttered. But these are actions of people in the context of society, not in the context of a religious service. The participating in an act of worship within that religion notwithstanding the forced participation in pray if they are to eat, for example.