The real intent of the first amendment was not to snub religion out of public life such as taking down the wreaths at city hall but was to protect church's from the government. The first clause basically says that congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of... and the second part says that no law can be created that inhibits someone's religion. I believe that the writers meant this to mean that government can't create a state church like the church of England because they knew that whenever the government got involved in anything it usually snuffed out its competitors. They feared that an official church of the state would destroy other people's churches and destroy the freedom for any individual to attend the church that they choose to along with it. This protects individual's right to believe any religious beliefs that they want by preventing the state from creating an official church or inhibiting them from attending a church. This means that a small town full of Christians can have government funding for Christmas trees and a small town full of Muslims can fund <insert muslim ceremony here> without anyone else's right to believe or attend a different church being threatened simply because it separates church from state. BTW, The expression's use of church does not refer to a person's religious beliefs associated with that church but the institution and organization itself. Its like saying separation of <the Vatican> from the state or separation of the Church of England from England. Its referring to the organization not the values associated with it.