Church and State

Home   The first amendment to the U.S. constitution (as presented in the Bill of Rights) reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

The now-famous metaphor of a "wall of separation" which is often used to describe this principle is not found in the Constitution, but rather in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

While it is often argued by accomodationists that this was merely Jefferson's opinion, and that the Founders intended no such "wall", this is proved false by an examination of the history of the first amendment and a series of proposed alternate wordings (that would have merely prevented the government for establishing preference for any one denomination) that were ultimately rejected.

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The following links are some of my favorite church/state and general law-related sites. 

The Constitutional Principle - information regarding the meaning of the first amendment.

Americans United - run by the Rev. Barry Lynn, this organization is on the front lines of the struggle to preserve the freedom of religion in the United States.

Supreme Court opinions can be located using the Oyez Project database, Findlaw, or USSC plus.

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Last updated on: 12 January, 2009 08:55 AM