The confusion arises from the different methods of reading the Constitution. Spitzer is relying, as most lawyers and politicians do, on case law ruled on by myriad judges and justices taking into account precedent and stare decisis. Loesch is relying on a literal reading of the same document where clear sections have been litigated out of use. In this case, the part of the First Amendment which reads: "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Tea Partiers, like Loesch, see that for what it is, an administrative omission, a tactical obliteration without taking the necessary steps to amend the amendment.I've an old post on the subject, in need of a little revision, that I've been meaning to put up again. I suppose I shall have to get 'round to it sometime soon. For now, suffice to say that it is absurd to think that the Congress that framed the First Amendment had any intention of establishing a sort of atheism-by-default approach to government. Their passage of the Northwest Ordinance, alone, is sufficient proof of that, even without taking into account multitudinous other proofs.
"Prohibiting the free exercise thereof," would seem to mean exactly that. Due to the fact that this phrase comes after the non-establishment clause, it would seem to clarify the meaning. In essence, since the federal government cannot establish a religion, it also does not prohibit the free exercise thereof. The federal government cannot hinder one's free exercise of their religion, i.e. not in the classroom, the jury box, the bench, or the museum for that matter. In fact, it would seem that such places in government are expressly prohibited from limiting that freedom, whereas some private organization might indeed prohibit religious expression.
The part of the amendment that Spitzer is focusing on is the non-establishment clause, but it has not been made clear what "establishment" means. To a literalist, like Loesch, establishment means to create a Church of the United States, just as there was a Church of England, in which taxes were raised to provide a budget for the church. Theoretically, a citizen could be made to attend, contribute and even pray. Freedom from the Church of England was a motivating factor in the development of America, so it is quite clear to the average intellect that the founding fathers would not like to create the same monster on the new shore. Far from trying to exclude religion from government, even a cursory reading of the works of George Washington or Benjamin Franklin would lead one to believe that specifically the Christian religion was integral to the soul of the new union, not banished from it as Spitzer apparently believes.