Freedom Of Religion and Freedom From Religion

This particularly hateful letter,
published in the Kenai, AK Peninsula Clarion (registration required; see also here), promulgates a popular misconception:

The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe.

Let’s consider a scenario: the government in your state allocates X million dollars to buy rosaries to be handed out in public schools, to hire priests to lead the school in reciting “Hail Mary, full of grace” over the PA system each morning, to bus students to mass on Sunday mornings, and so forth.

Most Americans, I suspect, will think, “Wait a sec! How come the school is pushing Catholicism on my kids? That can’t be right!” Then they’ll look up the bit in the first amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion” and see that no indeed, that can’t be right.

So what the first amendment says is that the government can’t push Catholicism on you. You have freedom from Catholicism.

Except that the constitution doesn’t explicitly mention Catholicism. It covers all religions. So the first amendment says that the government can’t push any religion. You have freedom from religion.

Yeah, it really is that simple. Why don’t people get it?

(HT My Confined Space, via Pharyngula.)