Few Americans, be they atheists or theists seem to understand what Separation of Church and State is. Most people think of it they way they simply want to think of it. If they dislike religion they want to believe that it has no place in public life especially anything in which the government is involved. On the other side of the issue are people who fear monger the notion that God will judge this nation supposedly once founded on Christian principles because we have kicked God out.
Even many lawyers and judges argue over the words of law simply because that is their job. They do not really care about meaning, or the full outcome of their ability to prevail. They too simply use the law of the land as a tool to be interpreted according to precedents and political points of view to whatever degree they can manage to prevail on their current case or political agenda. They have lost sight of the law itself. This is another topic, but it seems to me that the law of our land is not really the law as it is written but rather the law as it is or is not enforced and as it is interpreted by courts. If the actual written law can be ignored based on any number of since evolved procedures and precedents they will have at it. It is job security for lawyers and judges.
As I read the 1st amendment to our constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This is the only supreme law of the land that even mentions any thing concerning Separation of Church and State. What most people fail to realize is that the concept of SOC&S was a fully developed philosophy that many believed in but not all. Consequently the philosophy was NOT made law except for this one small part of the philosophy. However, this one small part of the philosophy is today read by some as if it represents and institutes the entire philosophy.
It is done through linguistic dishonesty. The phrase "an establishment of religion" is treated as if it were a verbal phrase - and as a result that is what it has come to be understood as meaning today - and for no other reason than this false interpretation of that phrase was played with by lawyers ignorant of the linguistics of the day the amendment was written. When the 1st amendment was written, that phrase was grammatically and linguistically only used as a noun phrase.
AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION is not a behavior, action or condition that results in firming up religion notions. AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION is an organization operated for the furtherance of religious activities. The first amendment protects church organizations from being told how they are to do their business. Congress cannot, for example, tell Presbyterians how to confirm bishops or what their qualifications must be, nor can Congress tell Muslims who they must pray to. The business of the church or other religious establishments is of no concern of the government and beyond its legislative domain. That amendment protects church organizations from being legislated. It has nothing to do with if people can pray in school or mention God, or swear upon a bible in a court room. In fact such laws would inhibit the free exercise thereof. That amendment is an organizational wall between the institutions of government and the institutions of religion.
The only other aspect of SOC&S that was "written" in to the constitution was actually something NOT written into it. The constitution does not establish any state church or specific religion. The end result is that both institutions are organizationally and procedurally free from each other.
In the entire history of the USA the church has never once violated the constitution. In this country no one by virtue of the office they hold in a religious institution automatically possesses any official authority in the state government or vice versa. Just because someone is a local Bishop they do not thereby have the authority to appoint the local sheriff. There have been countries where the church and state have had just such arrangements. But the federal government has done plenty to inhibit the free exercise thereof.
When cases come to court such as when the catholic church in 1962 sued to complain that in Wisconsin the KJV bible was used in public schools, the proper decision of the court should have been NO decision, the case should have been dismissed on the basis that it is an issue beyond the scope of the law. If anything they could only have only decided on that issue if the decision to use the KJV was done using procedures contrary to the charter of the school such as if the school board made the decision when the charter requires a public vote. As to the issue of it being the KJV or some other bible, they will just have to work that issue out among themselves as free individuals. A year later prayer was removed from public schools by the Supreme Court of the United States. It was a decision beyond the domain and authority of the court. That was a violation of the 1st amendment clear and plainly.
Religious people of any, every or no faith are free to be religious or irreligious and to involve themselves in personal meaningful rituals wherever they may happen to be on their own private property or on public property. The courts can keep civility and order but they cannot prohibit any particular behavior on the basis that it has an element of religiosity in it. That is NOT the degree of Separation that is supposed to be the law of our land according to the constitution.