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Wall of Seperation - History

Wall of Seperation - History



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Wall of separation - term for the separation of church and state, coined by Thomas Jefferson. According to Jefferson, the freedom of religion articulated in the First Amendment to the Constitution could best be articulated with the image of a "wall of separation" between the state and the church. This view of the First Amendment has been criticized by some.

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What Did Jefferson Mean By "Wall of Separation"?

Thomas S. Kidd teaches history and is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, and the author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2010).

The media cannot seem to get enough of Delaware’s Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. For better or worse, she embodies an energized populist Christian wave, the core of the Tea Party movement, seemingly poised to crash against the Obama administration and the secular left on Election Day. (Admittedly, her prominence obscures the fact that among this cycle’s formidable group of evangelical Republican women candidates, O’Donnell is least likely to win.) O’Donnell’s recent comments about separation of church and state not being in the First Amendment sent the political Left into a frenzy, even as they quietly admitted that she was correct in a technical sense: the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson wrote it in an 1802 letter to a group of evangelical Baptists in Connecticut. Conservative Christians from O’Donnell to those on the Texas State Board of Education’s textbook committee have recently downplayed or even excised the phrase “wall of separation” as unrepresentative of the founders’ views on church-state relations. Better to focus on the First Amendment, they say, and especially its guarantee of the “free exercise of religion.”

Distinguished Yale historian Jon Butler offered a gloss on the meaning of the First Amendment’s free exercise and establishment clauses last week on the History News Network, but now I’d like to take a look at Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter itself. A close historical examination reveals that Jefferson offers a middle way of church-state relations between the current poles of the secular Left and Christian Right. Jefferson and his evangelical Baptist supporters certainly believed in separation of church and state, particularly the ending of tax-supported denominations, which Connecticut and Massachusetts maintained well into the nineteenth century. This kind of religious establishment was the primary grievance of Jefferson’s correspondents, the Danbury Baptists. But neither they nor Jefferson envisioned church-state separation as meaning the total elimination of religion from American public life, the preference of some on the modern secular Left.

In October 1801 the Danbury Baptists wrote to Jefferson, lamenting Connecticut’s state-supported Congregationalist Church. The state offered them religious freedoms only “as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights,” they told the president. Jefferson wrote back sympathetically. He knew that as president he could not change Connecticut’s laws on the subject, but he reminded them that at least the national Congress could never make a law respecting an establishment of religion. The First Amendment, then, erected “a wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson and James Madison thought separation of church and state entailed more than just the banning of official denominations (Jefferson, for example, refused to call for national days of prayer and fasting), but state-backed churches were clearly the core concern for both Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists.

Jefferson sent the “wall of separation” letter on New Year’s Day weekend of 1802. These were a busy few days for Jefferson, and a time he chose to highlight his ideals of religious liberty. That weekend, he received a prodigious gift from another New England Baptist, his staunch supporter Elder John Leland. On New Year’s Day, Leland ceremoniously delivered to the president a 1200-pound block of cheese, sent by the Baptists of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Inscribed on the cheese’s red crust was the motto “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Then, that Sunday morning, Jefferson sat in the audience as Leland preached before a joint session of Congress. The signal Jefferson meant to send by attending this service was that he believed in real religious liberty, but not the purging of religion from the public sphere. To be sure, he didn’t approve of calling national days of prayer and fasting, but he did attend church services in the House chambers and routinely allowed such services in a variety of government buildings, too.

So what does Jefferson’s example tell us about the separation of church and state in the founding era? He believed in maximizing religious liberty, and getting the government to stop promoting specific denominations and policing people’s personal beliefs. But Jefferson was no modern-day secularist, either, as he could at least stomach attending church services in government buildings (especially when one of his devoted evangelical supporters was preaching!). Jefferson represents a kind of political animal we would never see today: a person skeptical about Jesus’s divinity and resurrection, yet backed by evangelical supporters who loved his deep commitment to religious liberty. He wanted to end sectarian religious preferences in law, but he generously honored a public role for religion. Despite his own doubts about Christianity, Jefferson realized that America was a place of both religious diversity and religious strength. His vision of church-state separation would protect these conditions under the expansive canopy of religious liberty. Maybe activists on both extremes of the debate over church-state relations today could learn something from his example.

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Psalm 12:6-7 “T he words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. ”

For over 170 years the United States Supreme Court always maintained that the phrase: “ a wall of separation between Church and State ” meant that Congress should not choose any one single Christian denomination in order to make it the “ state ” denomination.

Psalm 12 . is the promise to us!

Purified seven times . God's word is kept in spite of men!

Help, Lord for the godly man ceaseth for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
[Verse 1]

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. [Verse 2]

The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: [Verse 3]

Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail our lips are our own: who is lord over us? [Verse 4]

For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. [Verse 5]

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. [Verse 6]

Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. [Verse 7]

The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted. [Verse 8]

Church And State: The Walls Of Separation Re-Defined

Old Paths Baptist Mission © 2011 Richard St.James

Early U.S. History

Church And State

For over 170 years the United States Supreme Court always maintained that the phrase: "a wall of separation between Church and State" meant that Congress should not choose any one single Christian denomination in order to make it the "state" denomination.

Then in the 1960's our Supreme Court redefined this phrase made by Thomas Jefferson . for the purpose of throwing God and The Bible out of our national institutions . our schools . our colleges . our government.

To usurp God and his moral law can only corrupt us as a people, and in the end destroy our nation.

In January 1, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson replied to concerns of the Danbury Baptist Church in Connecticut by sending them a personal letter with the express purpose to calm their fears that Congress was not in the process of choosing any one single Christian denomination in order to make it the "state" denomination.

All the reference material below is from:
AMERICAN QUOTATIONS Version 1.3 ©1997 by William J. Federer. All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson, while serving as the 3rd U.S. President (1801-09), chaired the school board for the District of Columbia. He authored the first plan of education adopted by the city of Washington, which used the Bible and Isaac Watts' Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707, as the principal textbooks for teaching reading to students. 1186

Jefferson, Thomas. 1801-1809, as chairman of the school board for the District of Columbia during his Presidential term, authored a plan of education for the city of Washington which used the Bible and Isaac Watts' Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707, as the principle textbooks to teach reading to students. John W. Whitehead, The Second American Revolution (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1982), p. 100. Quoting from J.O. Wilson, Public School of Washington (Washington, D.C.: Columbia Historical Society, 1897), Vol. 1, p. 5.

On March 23, 1801, President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Moses Robinson:

"The Christian Religion, when divested of the rags in which they have enveloped it, and brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent institutor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind." 1187

Footnote: 1187 . Jefferson, Thomas. March 23, 1801, in a letter from Washington, D.C. to Moses Robinson. Barnes Mayo, ed., Jefferson Himself - The Personal Narrative of a many-sided American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942), p. 231

The Baptist denomination was one of the sects which had received severe persecution under the state Anglican church in several colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. There was concern that the newly formed Federal Government may choose a national denomination, similar to the Anglican Church in England and Virginia, the Lutheran Church in Germany, the Calvinist Church in Switzerland, or the Catholic Church in Italy and Spain, etc.

The Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, wrote a letter to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, expressing their concern. In preparing his reply, Jefferson borrowed phraseology from the Baptist minister, Roger Williams, who founded the Baptist Church in America. Roger Williams had written:

"When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the candlestick, and made His garden a wilderness, as it is this day. And that therefore if He will eer please to restore His garden and paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world. " 1188

Jefferson, Thomas. January 1, 1802, in using phraseology of famous Baptist minister Roger Williams. Lynn R. Buzzard and Samuel Ericsson, The Battle for Religious Liberty (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1982), p. 51. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution - The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), pp. 215, 243.


On January 1, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson replied to their concerns by sending a personal letter to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen Nelson of the Danbury Baptist Association, Danbury, Connecticut, calming their fears that Congress was not in the process of choosing any one single Christian denomination in order to make it the "state" denomination. He stated:

"The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptists Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing. Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem." 1189

Jefferson, Thomas. January 1, 1802, in a personal letter to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen Nelson of the Danbury Baptist Association, Danbury, Connecticut. Reynolds v. U.S., 98 U.S. 164 (1878). A.A. Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 20 vols. (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903-1904). Norman Cousins, In God We Trust - The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 135. Arthur Frommer, The Bible in the Public Schools (New York, NY: Liberal Press, 1963), p. 19. Charles E. Rice, The Supreme Court and Public Prayer: The Need for Restraint (New York: Fordham University Press, 1964), p. 63. Merrill D. Peterson, Jefferson Writings, Merrill D. Peterson, ed., (NY: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), p. 510. Henry Steele Commager, ed., Freedom of Religion & Separation of Church and State (Mount Vernon, New York: A. Colish, Inc., 1985), pp. 28-29. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution - The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), pp. 215, 242. Gary Wills, Under God (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990), p. 350. Gary DeMar, America's Christian History: The Untold Story (Atlanta, GA: American Vision Publishers, Inc., 1993), pp. 115-116. Letter transcribed in its entirety from the courthouse in Danbury, Connecticut, by William Vigue, 18 Clapboard Ridge Rd., Danbury, CT, 06811:

Men Never Learn From History!

It is a heart problem!

Men refuse to learn the “ lessons ” afforded by the light of HISTORY:

the recorded historical events which occurred as fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Now, these are the basic truths with which we all must deal with one way or another!

Two Basic Reasons For Our Failing Our History Lesson!

The Removing Of The Anchoring Landmarks
We have steadily almost imperceptibly at times removed one by one the great principles that were part of the formulation of the United States of America.

We have been busy for generations removing the anchoring landmarks that came as a result of the revivals God blessed this country with in its early years by the preaching of the word of GOD.

We have disobeyed the commandment in Proverbs 22:28- “ Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set. ”

The Departure from the BIBLE
What was the catalyst or reason for this downward spiral? Are you ready! The eyes of men everywhere had been clouded over with cataracts because of our apostasy or departure from the BIBLE … God’s word (and more exactly including the multiplicity of translations and corruption's to God's written word).
This apostasy began in America in the BIBLE SCHOOLS early in the last century (1901) when Philip Schaff (with other rank liberals who had rot-gut unbelief in God's word within their hearts) colluded with the English RV committee of 1885 (Westcott and Hort) to produce the American Standard Version (ASV), also known as “ the Rock of Bible Honesty ” by the scholars, or more accurately, by Bible believers, as a prime example of a new age version of a corrupted bible.


Evolution

As time marched on and the violence in Northern Ireland died down, gates began to appear in the walls. Although they still existed, and still segregated neighbourhoods, the walls now allowed passage from one area to another. Police staff some of these gates, and many are closed at night.

In recent years, the peace walls have become part of the fabric of Belfast’s tourism industry. Black cab tours travel around iconic locations in the city, many of which have to do with the Troubles. The peace walls have found themselves on the same route as the city’s most famous murals, which isn’t surprising, as much of Belfast’s wall art is actually on the peace lines themselves.


Wall of Seperation - History

by Steven Conn on Dec 10, 2007

You’d think that of all people, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, would know better.

In his recent, quasi-confessional speech about his religion and the role of religion in the town square, Romney said: “Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

In fact, it is Romney who has it wrong, and in that remark he perpetuates one of the central myths of the religious right in our country. The religious right, a club that Romney desperately wants to join, tells a story of moral decline: America was once great and righteous and true, and now we have slid into depravity and turpitude.

The details of this declension are always vague – notice the unnamed “they” of Romney’s speech – but the cause is always some hazy conspiracy of people who have stripped religion out of public life. And the antidote is the same: more religion, preferably more of that “old time” religion. In our private lives and in our politics.

This gets the history of the separation between church and state exactly backwards. We can date the beginnings of this separation to William Penn’s Philadelphia. When he founded the City of Brotherly Love in the 1680s he did so without an official, “state” religion (in contrast with the Massachusetts and Virginia colonies) and announced to the world that people of any religious faith would be welcome. To Penn we owe our freedom of religion.

Penn was a deeply religious Quaker. He called Pennsylvania a “holy experiment.” As a Quaker he had been persecuted for his religious beliefs in England. His Quakerism, and his refusal to renounce it, led to his expulsion from Oxford University and ultimately to jail. For Penn, religion was a matter of private conscience, not public policy. When he founded Philadelphia without an official religion he did so precisely to keep the state out of the church. Penn knew personally what could happen when the state and church mixed.

A century later, the Founders were inspired by the Enlightenment’s promotion of reason and liberty. They shaped the United States on Penn’s model: without a state religion and with the promise that the government would not meddle in the affairs of any church. That’s why Thomas Jefferson responded to the Connecticut Baptists’ appeal with his famous reference to a “wall of separation” between the state and the church.

In the 19th century, Mormons experienced more harassment and hostility from state and federal governments than any other religious group. When Mormons established a settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois, the hostility broke out into something approaching war. The state legislature intervened and revoked the town’s charter.

Having moved to the Utah territory, Mormons clashed with the federal government. President Buchanan declared the Utah territory to be in rebellion for its attempt to establish a Mormon Zion on federal land. He sent in federal troops to remove Brigham Young as the territorial governor, precipitating the so-called Utah war.

Buchanan, like most Americans, found the Mormon practice of polygamy to be abhorrent. Buchanan’s successor, Lincoln, signed the first federal law banning polygamy in 1862, a law that was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, where its constitutionality was upheld.

Since then, Mormons have managed an uneasy compromise with the rest of the nation. In return for disavowing the practice of polygamy, Mormons have largely been left alone by the state. The sect has grown and expanded as a result.

The lesson of Mormon history would seem to be clear: keep the church out of the state and the state will stay out of the church. Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy should be an opportunity to remind Americans about that critical lesson. Unfortunately, Romney chose instead to tell the religious right what it wants to hear: more prayer in public places.

Romney’s understanding of theology may or may not be palatable to the Republican base he courts. What should trouble us more than his Mormonism is his misunderstanding of our tradition of religious freedom. Religion has flourished in the United States precisely because we have separated state and church.

Steven Conn is Professor of History and Director of Public History at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.


Application

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has been a frequent source of contention in the United States over the nature of religion in government and the public square. However, what does this phrase actually mean? Where did it come from? What is the proper relationship between the Church and the State, especially in the United States?

History of “Separation of Church and State”

This might come as a surprise to many modern Americans, but the United States did not always have a separation between Church and State. In the early colonies, it was common to have an established church. Congregationalism was the dominant state church in the northern colonies while the Church of England was dominant in the southern colonies. Under certain laws , people were forced to pay taxes to support clergy, attend church, or needed a license to preach. Harsh penalties were frequently met with those who disobeyed. This adversely affected religious minorities like Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Quakers, Baptists, etc. They objected to having their tax money used to support clergy with whom they disagreed and, as a result, bore the brunt of these punishments, suffering intense persecution .

After the Revolution, based on Thomas Jefferson’s work in Virginia in creating the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom , similar protections were adopted in the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was meant to guard religion from excessive government interference. At that time, though, this still did not prohibit state governments from establishing official churches. It only prevented federal interference.

Because of these complexities, in 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to then-President Thomas Jefferson expressing concern that their rights to religious freedom were still unsafe from the intrusion of the states. Jefferson, wanting to reassure them, wrote in response ,

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

This is where the phrase “wall of separation between Church and State” comes from. It is not directly found in the Constitution itself but was Jefferson’s informal way of expressing the effect and intention of the First Amendment.

As religious diversity continued to increase in the United States, states began disestablishing official churches from their governments (Massachusetts was the last one to do so in 1833). Eventually, the 14th Amendment (1868) applied the restrictions in the First Amendment to state governments, making established state churches impossible.

Separation of Church and State in the Modern Context

Since then, several court cases have sought to further elaborate the precise meaning and application of the First Amendment. The most prominent cases among these are Everson v. Board of Education (1947) and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).

In Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court, using Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists as a prooftext, created the precedent of separation of church and state. More specifically, they said that the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) is a liberty protected by the due process clause in the 14th Amendment. Justice Black in the majority opinion wrote, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” Thus, the principle of “separation of church and state” became a part of our legal and judicial systems, and many subsequent court cases have tried to define where that wall should stand.

One of the most important cases in defining separation of church and state is Lemon v. Kurtzman. In this case, the Supreme Court established what became known as the Lemon Test to see if a law or government program violated the First Amendment. It had three parts. First, a law must have “a legitimate secular purpose.” Second, it cannot “have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion.” Third, it cannot “result in an excessive entanglement of government and religion.”

Generally speaking, other court cases which debated the nature of the Establishment Clause and separation of church and state have fallen into four areas of concern:

Government aid being given to religious schools or social welfare programs administered by religious institutions (such as government scholarships or grants going to students of Christian colleges)

Government-sponsored prayer (such as in schools or local town hall meetings)

Accommodating religious dissent from generally applicable laws (like conscientious objectors to the draft or getting vaccinated)

Religious symbols on government-owned property (like the Ten Commandments being at a courthouse)

Where the line between church and state should be drawn in all of these debates is a matter of ongoing discussion and importance.


The Wall of Separation

Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated the third president of the United States on March 4, 1801, following one of the most bitterly contested presidential elections in American history. He had faced the unpopular incumbent, Federalist John Adams of Massachusetts&mdashhis confrere in the independence struggle and longtime rival. The electorate was deeply divided along regional, partisan, and ideological lines. Acrimonious campaign rhetoric punctuated the polarized political landscape.

In few, if any, presidential contests has religion played a more divisive and decisive role than in the election of 1800. Jefferson's religion, or alleged lack thereof, emerged as a critical issue in the campaign. His Federalist opponents vilified him as a Jacobin and atheist. (Both charges stemmed from his notorious sympathy for the French Revolution, which in the 1790s had turned bloody and, some said, anti-Christian.) In the days before the election, the Gazette of the United States , a leading Federalist newspaper, posed the "grand question" of whether Americans should vote for "GOD&mdashAND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT [John Adams] or impiously declare for JEFFERSON&mdashAND NO GOD. "

Jefferson's Federalist foes did not invent the stinging accusation that he was an infidel. Years before, his ardent advocacy for disestablishment in Virginia had led many pious Americans to conclude that Jefferson was, if not an enemy of religion, at least indifferent towards organized religion's vital role in civic life. The publication of his Notes on the State of Virginia in the mid-1780s exacerbated these fears. He wrote, "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket .

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Hugo Black and the real history of "the wall of separation between church and state"

Let's take a closer look at "separation of church and state" in American culture and law.

Of course "a wall of separation between church and state" is found nowhere in the Constitution. It was a casual phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter written to the Danbury Connecticut Baptists association in 1802. Jefferson played no role in the ratification of the Constitution, and his personal letters obviously have no credible bearing on Constitutional law.

In fact, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment

was ratified in order to protect state established churches. At the time of the ratification, many states had official churches. The Establishment clause was ratified in large part to prevent federal interference with local government-sponsored religious activity-- to protect local governments' sponsorship of religious activities from federal censorship. Established state churches only disappeared with the 14th Amendment, which applied the Bill of Rights to the states through the doctrine of incorporation.

Jefferson's letter was forgotten for a half century, until it was reprinted in 1853. His phrase "wall of separation between church and state" first appeared in Supreme Court jurisprudence in 1878 in the Reynolds v. United States decision. In that ruling (about a bigamy conviction of a Mormon), the Court found that invocation of "religious duty" was not a defense to a criminal indictment.

The "wall of separation" phrase languished in jurisprudence for another 70 years, but it did not languish in American culture.

In the early 20th century, anti-Catholic bigots promoted the doctrine of "a wall of separation between church and state" to extinguish Catholic schools and other institutions. The Ku Klux Klan spearheaded the "wall of separation" doctrine. From the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project:

So how does this invocation of "wall of separation between church and state" become Supreme Court doctrine, extending from a casual phrase by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to an obscure comment in an 1878 Supreme Court ruling on bigamy to a pervasive doctrine of anti-religious censorship in the public square in the 21st century?

On August 11, 1921 Fr. James Coyle, a Roman Catholic priest in Birmingham, Alabama, was shot to death on the porch of his rectory by E.R. Stephensen, a local Ku Klux Klansman. Fr. Coyle had just performed a wedding between Stephensen's daughter and her Puerto Rican husband.

Stephenson was defended by five lawyers, four of whom were Klan members. The fifth lawyer who volunteered to defend Stephenson was Hugo Black, a prominent local attorney. Despite the fact that the Catholic priest was unarmed and the murder was committed in public in front of witnesses, Stephensen was acquitted of murder based on "self-defense"and "temporary insanity".

Defense attorney Black joined the Ku Klux Klan after the trial. In the Klan, Black was a Kladd of the Klavern, which was an initiator of new Klansmen.


From The Volokh Conspiracy:


Several years later, Black ran for U.S. Senate from Alabama. He barnstormed the state, campaigning on a virulent anti-Catholic platform and demanding "a wall of separation between church and state". His strongest support came from his Klan base, and he gave many anti-Catholic "wall of separation" speeches to Klan meetings across Alabama.

Black, a Democrat, won the Alabama senate seat in 1926, defeating his Republican opponent with 80.9 % of the vote. He easily won re-election in 1932, with 86.3 % of the vote. He was a staunch defender of FDR's New Deal and of Roosevelt's court-packing plan.

In 1937 Roosevelt appointed Black to the Supreme Court. Despite controversy about his Klan history, Black was easily confirmed. He quickly acquired a reputation for idiosyncratic interpretation of the Constitution.

In 1947, Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education, the landmark Establishment Clause Supreme Court decision that barred use of tax revenues to transport children to religious (Catholic) schools.

In 1962, Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion in Engel v. Vitale, the landmark Establishment Clause Supreme Court decision that outlawed prayer in public schools.

Justice Hugo Black began his political career in the wake of his successful defense of a Klansman who murdered a Catholic priest. The modern application of the non-Constitutional doctrine "a wall of separation between church and state" derives from Black, a former Kladd of the Klavern of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, who used his Klan base to secure a Senate seat and ultimately an appointment on the Supreme Court.

The phrase "a wall of separation between church and state" played little role in jurisprudence until the mid-20th century. The doctrine has long played a large cultural role, preserved by pervasive anti-Catholic bigotry through organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, and became a 'Constitutional principle' through the jurisprudence of an anti-Catholic bigot. It is used today to suppress prayer and religious expression in all public schools in the United States.

Why is it that discussions of the "separation of church and state" don't generally include the cultural and political history of the "doctrine"? Why is the central role that "separation" played in the political and judicial rise of Justice Black-- the father of modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence-- never seems to show up in New York Times Op-Ed columns or NPR's "All Things Considered"? Ever see a press release by Americans United for Separation of Church and State note the fact that "an eternal separation of church and state" was a part of the KKK’s jurisprudential agenda and the Klansmen's Creed, and that one of those Klansmen jurists wrote the Supreme Court opinions establishing "separation of church and state" as the law under which we live?

Commenting on the Black's "wall of separation" doctrine, twogaybullies express (approvingly) the censors' view quite nicely:

49 comments:

So people who disagree with you are murderers, totalitarians, dictators, without morals, and now they are members of the KKK.

I'll just copy one of the quotes in your sidebar:
. it is simply impossible for me to continue to believe that the "Michael Egnor" articles are being written by a real person who really believes what he (or she) writes.

You just write bullshit to provocate and you love when people point out that you're insane.

It is really remarkable how the New Atheists systematically resort to insults when confronted with arguments they cannot counter (or understand, but I rather not go there).

It is really remarkable how the New Atheists systematically resort to insults

You mean like comparisons with KKK, Stalin, North Korea and other totalitarians? Oh wait-

This is an awesome blog. Keep it up.

Despite what your detractors may say, this blog makes solid arguments using evidence. It is a thinking person's blog. The commenters who don't like the blog resort to screeds fact-free screeds to denounce what they cannot debate. They can't debate it, of course, because the truth is not on their side.

The "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. Wishing it into existence is not going to work. What IS in the Constitution is a prohibition against an established church, at least at the federal level. After the passage of the 14th Amendment, that would also mean that the state are prohibited from establishing state churches.

But having a Christmas party at school is not establishing a church. A teacher wearing a cross around her neck is not establishing a church. Displaying the Ten Commandments in a courthouse is not establishing a church. Prohibiting same sex "marriage" is not establishing a church just as prohibiting polygamy is not establishing a church.

By the way, my particular religion prohibits both. I am constantly accused of 'forcing my religion on others' in a very "unconstitutional" fashion because I maintain that marriage should consist of a man and woman. However, no one ever accuses me of 'forcing my religion' on anyone else because I oppose polygamy.

Let's put it this way. Establishing a state church means exactly what it says. If Congress were to pass a bill declaring an official Church of the USA--much like the church of England--that would be a violation of the First Amendment.

@Pépé , So much for the 'golden rule' eh?
@Anon(angry)
"So people who disagree with you are murderers, totalitarians, dictators, without morals, and now they are members of the KKK."
Lay down with dogs.
I think this is supposed to be a rhetorical question. I think. I would suggest that you could easily flip this little statement over and reflect on the truth of if, Anon. Allow me a rhetorical question in response:
So, many of the people who support and have historically supported the ideas (state-atheism, positivism etc) that YOU (anon) argue for are, IN FACT, 'murderers, totalitarians, dictators, without morals' and now you have come to learn many fellow travellers are members of the KKK.
OUCH!

I can see why your upset. Not the Doctor's fault, though.

@Anon(BEN) and Mike,
Where does the Federal government get off interfering with State Governments on this foundational issue? Who are the people in Washington to decide the religious direction of Oregonians or Texans?
How does a 14th amendment get passed in a republic? This speaks of something that is a bit of a mystery to Canadians - this lack of regional/state power and self determination. Don't States themselves have charters/constitutions for JUST such matters? What is the point of the expense and effort of a State Government if the Federal one just pulls the strings?
I am left confused by the whole issue.
The only separation of Church and State I respect as realistically and as verity is "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's". That command carries weight and truth no man made contract, decree, charter, bill, treaty, or constitution could ever hope to posses.
The other 'legal' stuff and Jefferson's (irrelevant in my view) opinions about this 'wall'?
A naive and nobly intended exercise in self delusion: Politics.

So, many of the people who support and have historically supported the ideas (state-atheism, positivism etc) that YOU (anon) argue for are, IN FACT, 'murderers, totalitarians, dictators, without morals' and now you have come to learn many fellow travellers are members of the KKK.
hurrr i make up facts.

A naive and nobly intended exercise in self delusion
A religious guy writing this words? How ironic.

Sorry, I cannot believe that this blog is not a parody.

Catholics v protestants. Commence the fight!

Okay, Anonymous. What fact did Crusade Rex "make up"?

You're going to have to elaborate because I don't see it.

Dr. Egnor, don't you know how unfair and insane, and what a parody it is to cite facts to atheists?

How dare you, sir? How dare you?

"Jefferson played no role in the ratification of the Constitution, and his personal letters obviously have no credible bearing on Constitutional law."
Jefferson was Madison's mentor. Madison wrote the 1st Amendment. Madison had some views. Those views don't support your contention. Instead, they support Jefferson's

In 1962, Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion in Engel v. Vitale, the landmark Establishment Clause Supreme Court decision that outlawed prayer in public schools.
Oh, come on! That's the worst reading of EvV I've read in quite a while. In what world is "mandatory prayer" the same as "prayer"? Kids in public schools can still pray. Teachers in public schools can still pray. Teachers in public schools can't make (or appear to make) kids to pray.

"It is used today to suppress prayer and religious expression in all public schools in the United States."
And you still don't get it. Kids' personal expression is protected. When it become the school's expression (or becomes, in effect, the school's expression) it's not.

"Do you understand?"
Perfectly. Separation doesn't exist because Black, a lawyer, once sat on the team that defended E. R. Stephenson, a Methodist minister who lost his shit when his daughter married a Catholic from Puerto Rico. Why not go all the way? Everything that Thomas Jefferson did is tainted because he was a slave owner. That's worse than the Klan, isn't it? Also, Volkswagon is Hitler!

Okay Anon,
I will list LEADERS of Atheist states:
Lenin
Stalin
Mao
Pol Pot
Kim Il Jung (and now Kim Jung Il)
Elias Calles

There is just a few.
Atheism is a view popular among the elite and powerful. State Atheism is the moral metastasis of that elitism.
Even the detestable Robespierre, acolyte to the cult of reason and principle architect of 'The Terror' could smell the elitism the movement to advance state Atheism.
He wrote: "Atheism is aristocratic the idea of a great Being that watches over oppressed innocence and punishes triumphant crime is altogether popular."

crusadeREX"Where does the Federal government get off interfering with State Governments on this foundational issue? Who are the people in Washington to decide the religious direction of Oregonians or Texans? "
The anti-Catholic schools bill that mregnor mentioned? Declared unconstitutional once it hit Federal Court on 14th Amendment grounds (and again when it hit the ScUSA) (that 'Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project' link that's broken above has more). When states don't defend the civil rights of their own people (historically, the Unpopular Minorities: blacks in the south, Catholics, Mormons and JWs everywhere else, with appearances by the occasional Quaker, Jew or Chinese-American), the feds do. Ideally.
And the USA doesn't have the equivalent of the "notwithstanding clause" that Canada's got. Probably for the best, as "notwithstanding" is basically short for "notwithstanding the fact that what we're doing contravenes the Canadian constitution and Charter of rights and freedoms, we're going to do it anyway for five years, at which point we'll do it again. " nes pas?

Anon (angry) wrote:
'Everything that Thomas Jefferson did is tainted because he was a slave owner.'
Fine by me. Him and Madison were both NUTS in my book. Madison was a Bonepartist too.

'That's worse than the Klan, isn't it?'
Also, Volkswagon is Hitler!
Ferdinand Porsche designed the VW people mover (bug). It was commissioned during the Third Reich. Hitler was not a car, he was a totalitarian dictator who enforced/promoted SOCIAL DARWINISM through a EUGENICS programs.

MO,
Thanks for expanding.
You wrote:
"The anti-Catholic schools bill that mregnor mentioned? Declared unconstitutional once it hit Federal Court on 14th Amendment grounds (and again when it hit the ScUSA) (that 'Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project' link that's broken above has more). "
GOOD!

" When states don't defend the civil rights of their own people (historically, the Unpopular Minorities: blacks in the south, Catholics, Mormons and JWs everywhere else, with appearances by the occasional Quaker, Jew or Chinese-American), the feds do."
That's a bit rich for me, MO. You would have to buy into the whole Big Brother thing to buy that. Sorry. I am far too cynical minded for that stuff- even in theory. The Feds will get involved when it PROFITS them. To protect minorities? Come on! Like the Native peoples for example? The Interred Japanese during WWII? Maybe the 'Branch Davidians' at Waco?

"Ideally"
Oh, I see. Not in reality.

"And the USA doesn't have the equivalent of the "notwithstanding clause" that Canada's got.
I am assuming you refer to section 33 of the 'Charter of Rights' which allows the courts to overturn a Federal decision in favour of the Provinces and Territories (or individuals) if the Government is deemed to have gone BEYOND the it's constitutional mandate.
I can see that being an issue/problem.

"Probably for the best, as "notwithstanding" is basically short for "notwithstanding the fact that what we're doing contravenes the Canadian constitution and Charter of rights and freedoms, we're going to do it anyway for five years, at
which point we'll do it again. " nes pas?"

N'est-ce pas.
Just like the medical care issues, this always gets mixed up in the American media.
The clause is designed and used to prevent the FEDS from reaching beyond their mandate. The controversy on this issue is not about time lines or what not - it is about empowering the APPOINTED judiciary to effectively write law.
The argument AGAINST the Charter in general (and section 33 in specific) is that the judges themselves should not be able to enact law by precedent, even if the Federal government is over stepping it's bounds. At least that is how I understand it.

Here is a link on the subject, should you like to read up on it, MO.

crusadeREX "Fine by me. Him and Madison were both NUTS in my book. Madison was a Bonepartist too."
Obviously. It's not like the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, or had reasons for writing what they wrote the way that they wrote it, or ever wrote down anything supporting their views on what they wrote, or anything.

"Ferdinand Porsche designed the. "
I was poking fun at your terrible argument. The Genetic Fallacy, and variants thereof, is a poor foundation.

"Oh, I see. Not in reality."
Reality is not ideal. As the great philosopher duo, Paula Abdul and MC Skat cat, said, "I take 2 steps forward/I take 2 steps back", except that sometimes it's more steps forward than back, and others it's the opposite, but the curve tends toward greater inclusion of Unpopular Minorities who were formerly excluded. As the alien Reverend Martin Luther Kang said, "Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

"Here is a link on the subject, should you like to read up on it, MO."
"The Notwithstanding clause thus permits elected legislatures (federal, provincial, or territorial) to declare that a particular action or law operates 'notwithstanding' or 'in spite of' a right or freedom found in the Charter. If, for example, a legislature wishes to pass a law that will unconstitutionally violate the Charter right to freedom of expression, it can make a declaration under the clause stating that the law will continue to stand, regardless of the violation. The judiciary [temporarily], therefore, no longer has the power to force the legislature to change the law in that case" (fm your link, text in brackets mine)
In effect, it lets legislatures flout some rights. (The USA equivalent would be an exception written in the Constitution that let States or DC ignore some sections of the Bill of Rights, but not others, and not have judicial review of such for five years)

Correction: I was poking fun at his terrible argument.*

* One that you appear to agree with. So, in a roundabout way, I'm poking you, too.

MO,
You wrote:
"Obviously. anything supporting their views on what they wrote, or anything."
I am not sure what you mean by this? Is this humour? Forgive me, it has flown over my head. Maybe it my mood or lack of sleep.

"Reality is not ideal. As the great philosopher duo, Paula Abdul and MC Skat cat, said, "I take 2 steps forward/I take 2 steps back", alien Reverend Martin Luther Kang said, "Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.""
Rev Kang is so much better in the Original Klingon.
MLK wisdom heard recognized and understood.
Humour aside, the record on the Feds siding with minorities is more than a little dubious. I simply do not share the Reverend's optimism. Arc? I see cycles.

"I was poking fun at your terrible argument. The Genetic Fallacy, and variants thereof, is a poor foundation."
Genetic Fallacy? Er. No. History is what it's called. Own it, or it will OWN you.
As for poking fun, have at it. we could all use a laugh.

" (The USA equivalent would be an exception written in the Constitution that let States or DC ignore some sections of the Bill of Rights, but not others, and not have judicial review of such for five years)"
There is no US equivalent. The entire system of law and legislation is different. From assent to enactment. The Charter is not a duplicate of your Bill of Rights and has a different (if similar) mandate. The only real connection here is the matter of the rights of States or Provinces in contrast to that of their respective Federal masters. I know that Section 33 is supposed to help govern that relationship in areas of legal (charter/constitutional) conflict/overlap. I gather you understand that much too, MO. That is where the connection ends, however. and despite your excellent argument for not implementing a Canadian parliamentary charter rights amendment in the US government's legislative branch, I am left rather perplexed.
I still do not understand how the US Federal government gets involved in High School politics or why the US taxpayer permits it.

@anon.
You mean like comparisons with KKK, Stalin, North Korea and other totalitarians?

No, I mean You just write bullshit. because KKK, Stalin, North Korea and other totalitarians are all Atheists!

I am ready to hear your arguments, if any, to prove me wrong. But you will certainly insult me.

"Obviously. It's not like the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, or had reasons for writing what they wrote the way that they wrote it, or ever wrote down anything supporting their views on what they wrote, or anything."
My son to the rescue!
He suggests this is sarcasm, or what passes for it these days.
MO, he suggests you are making a 'DUH?' Statement on relevance.
Your approach is admirably patriotic, but foolishly arrogant. I do not view the writings of these men with same importance, awe and profundity that you do.
Having noted that, I will excuse myself from further discussion on subject that remains mysterious to me.

Please leave the internet. You are now officially too dumb for it.

You're so full of s**t I can smell you from here.

crusadeREX "I am not sure what you mean by this?"
They did write the Constitution, they did have reasons for writing what they wrote the way that they wrote it, and they did write supporting their views on what they wrote.

"Humour aside, the record on the Feds siding with minorities is more than a little dubious."
And the states' record is worse. More of the Bill of Rights applies to the states now for a reason, and it's not because the states were too good at protecting their citizens' civil rights.

"I simply do not share the Reverend's optimism. Arc? I see cycles."
Black people aren't property. Women can vote. People born in America are citizens. That's a positive arc.

"Genetic Fallacy? Er. No. History is what it's called."
Yes, people are (and were) not perfect. That's no reason to dismiss their arguments anymore than it is a reason to take the Constitution as holy writ simply because it was written by the Founding Fathers.

"There is no US equivalent."
I wrote "The USA equivalent would be an exception. "

"I still do not understand how the US Federal government gets involved in High School politics or why the US taxpayer permits it. "
Because they aren't civil rights if they don't apply to everyone. A right, unequally applied, isn't a right. It's a privilege.

"Your approach is admirably patriotic, but foolishly arrogant. I do not view the writings of these men with same importance, awe and profundity that you do."
*Sigh*. All I'm saying is:
1. Dismissing something based on its source is a logical fallacy.
2. Understanding what statements means is best accomplished by reading what the creators of the statements (in this case Madison, the writer, and Jefferson, his mentor) wrote about and around those statements.

If you wouldn't mind, can I give a plug to a blog to add to the demoralization of the atheists. Thanks

Great blog! I've added it to the blogroll.

Pépé:
because KKK, Stalin, North Korea and other totalitarians are all Atheists!

KKK. Atheists. I don't know about mregnor, but your messages have to be parodies.

You wrote in the first comments:
It is really remarkable how the New Atheists systematically resort to insults when confronted with arguments they cannot counter (or understand, but I rather not go there).

And later:
You're so full of s**t I can smell you from here.

Seriously, do you even read your own messages?

A quote from Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

Contrary to Egnor's dismissing this letter as a mere personal opinion, this is Jefferson EXPLAINING what the clause meant. I fail to see how one of the founding fathers, saying essentially the same thing in other words, is another sentiment entirely.

@Anon,
"And the states' record is worse. "
This is exactly what I mean. The States record (combined) is the Unions. A republic like the modern Union is supposed to be governed bottom up 'By the people, for the People'.

"Black people aren't property."
This is true. Things are better for the black folks. but how much so?
They are free to fill the prisons and ghettos. They are free to be welfare slaves and called 'Africans'. Better than being slaves, sure.

"Women can vote."
And now MUST work for LESS pay than men. Strangers may raise their children, if they are not conditioned to remain childless for economic reasons.

"People born in America are citizens."
I understand that is an issue that is quite controversial. 'Anchor babies' are an election issue, no? I can see the problem, but I do agree this is a right that should be preserved.

"That's a positive arc."
Improvements, no doubt. This is a cultural peak. There will be valleys.

"Because they aren't civil rights if they don't apply to everyone."
Agreed, but not sure what that has to do with my question.

"A right, unequally applied, isn't a right. It's a privilege."
Like the right to freedom of expression, and the right to be offended by others? This obvious distinction is the reason behind my objections: The rights of the students and school (to express cultural and historic roots in the form of a 'mural') is being infringed upon by a SINGLE student who was offended by the exercise of that right. Add to the discussion this is an emotionally vulnerable girl (mum recently died etc) and the cadre of lawyers. and you see where I am going, I am sure.

"All I'm saying is:
1. Dismissing something based on its source is a logical fallacy."
All I am saying is crying 'fallacy' is like crying foul. It is expected while ever being suspect.
Your claim that this is what associating Atheism and modern Atheist States with bloody and oppressive history is 'genetic fallacy'. You're calling foul, saying I (and other posters) are hooking, tripping. I say your diving.
I am suggesting that the facts are still there.
The connection is still valid.
The shot was on goal, the refs have decided and there is no use you crying foul after the final score.
You call my view fallacy, I call yours avoidance at best and revisionism at worst.

"2. Understanding what statements means is best accomplished by reading what the creators of the statements (in this case Madison, the writer, and Jefferson, his mentor) wrote about and around those statements."
It is a good means, I will agree that much. Research into ideas and writing is an important aspect of coming to understanding an individuals position within the period studied. It is not the only, or the 'best'. Nor does it always speak to their correctness or sanity. Events and deeds are the best. People talk and write all sorts of nonsense.
They DO what they mean. Slave ownership (and 'breeding') is a insight that is JUST as valid as Jefferson's letters from France, IMO.
The records of opponents and enemies are also invaluable. Two sides to every story.
I understand who Madison and Jefferson were, I am aware of their relationship. I am aware of their revered status in the US version of history.
That does not affect my opinion on their relative morality, sanity or Imperial ambitions.

Let me clarify:
My position is that I think allowing this brats complaint to be seen as a 'constitutional' matter BELITTLES the constitution and reduces the Federal government to the role of thought police.

**The States record (combined) is the Union's.**
Damn teeny tiny screens >.>

Sure. I understand that lacking in any kind of legal argument, you resort to a post that is nothing more than a non-sequitur in order to distract everyone from the issue.

Like the right to freedom of expression, and the right to be offended by others? This obvious distinction is the reason behind my objections: The rights of the students and school (to express cultural and historic roots in the form of a 'mural') is being infringed upon by a SINGLE student who was offended by the exercise of that right.

The banner isn't the expression of any student. It is an expression made by the school, and further up the chain, but the school board. The banner is a government endorsement. It violates Lemon, and the school board will lose.

Students are free to pray all they want on school property. They just can't get the school system to mandate it or endorse it. How truly fragile is your religion if you think it needs state sanction?

Everson was decided 5-4. But if one reads the two dissents, one finds that the dissenting justices agreed with the majority concerning what the Establishment Clause meant (the "wall of separation" that Egnor is foaming at the mouth about), but thought the remedy prescribed by the majority wasn't severe enough.

One wonders how a KKK plot garnered unanimous support from the entire U.S. Supreme Court.

Engele v. Vitale was decided 6-1 (two justices didn't participate in the case).

Neither of these cases were close. Neither of them relied upon Jefferson's letter, using it merely as a useful metaphor to describe their ruling. Spinning Everson as some sort of KKK plot is something fringe evangelicals like to try to do, but it ignores the fact that Black was only one of nine justices, and they all agreed that the Establishment Clause prohibited the actions being complained of in Everson.

In addition, the idea that Black continued to adhere to the KKK line, and continued his anti-Catholic views is dubious at best. As a Senator and Justice, he was close friends with several members of the NAACP, hired Jewish and Catholic employees, and generally behaved in a manner entirely at odds with the way one would expect a practicing Klansman to.

The salient fact about "wall of separation" is that it was not a significant part of jurisprudence until Engele. It was a cultural icon, nourished in the fever swamps of nativism and anti-Catholic bigotry of the KKK and atheist variety.

"Wall of separation" has a 150 year pedigree prior to 1947, and that pedigree wore a sheet.

crusadeREX "Improvements, no doubt. This is a cultural peak. There will be valleys."
Allow me again to reference Paula Abdul and MC Skat cat.

"Agreed, but not sure what that has to do with my question."
You don't understand why the federal government gets involved in civil rights when the states fail to protect them?

"The rights of the students and school (to express cultural and historic roots in the form of a 'mural') is being infringed upon by a SINGLE student who was offended by the exercise of that right."
The kids can pray. The kids can put that mural in their locker. The school, representative of the state, can't be seen to endorse (or oppress) it.

"All I am saying is crying 'fallacy' is like crying foul. It is expected while ever being suspect."
All I am saying is that "Fine by me. Him and Madison were both NUTS in my book. Madison was a Bonepartist too." continue to be an idiotic reason to dismiss them.

"They DO what they mean. Slave ownership (and 'breeding') is a insight that is JUST as valid as Jefferson's letters from France, IMO."
1. Cultural blind spot.
2. Some were pro-abolution (or had abolutionist leanings), but getting that in to the Articles of Confederation, Constitution, etc would have guaranteed no USA. The gap between them and the 13th is almost a century. Lots can change in that amount of time (heck, sit down to a family dinner and listen to your grandfather or uncle say the most horribly racist things as though it was perfectly normal. And that's just a gap of a generation or two)

Mike Egnor "'Wall of separation'. nourished in the fever swamps of nativism and anti-Catholic bigotry of the KKK and atheist variety.'Wall of separation' has a 150 year pedigree prior to 1947, and that pedigree wore a sheet."
Yeah! Take that, Protestant KKK!
And take that, year 1947! Wisconsin (Weiss v. District Board 76 Wis) beat you to it by over fifty years!
.
Oh.
Wait.
Ignore that one.
That was a Catholic suing. (And ignore Schempp (1963), which referenced it. That was a UU. It did get combined with O'Hair, though, so there's at least one atheist there for you to smear)

The salient fact about "wall of separation" is that it was not a significant part of jurisprudence until Engele. It was a cultural icon, nourished in the fever swamps of nativism and anti-Catholic bigotry of the KKK and atheist variety.

The salient fact about the "wall of separation" is that it was a rhetorical flair that was used to illustrate a ruling - a ruling that was in line with previous case law on the matter. The idea that it was some sort of KKK plot is a red herring that you've decided to wave about. Everson (not Engele, you can't even keep your cases straight) was unanimously decided in favor of the interpretation that the "wall of separation" language was intended to illustrate.

Every Justice on the court, including Felix Frankfurter (very much not a KKK-sympathizer), agreed with this language:

"No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa."

Frankfurter and the other dissenting justices dissented because the remedy proposed by the Black majority opinion didn't go far enough in their opinion. Black, supposedly champing at the bit to bash Catholics, decided that the statute in question could stand as applied because it applied equally to all religious groups. Five Justices agreed with Black on all points. Four other Justices who weren't Justice Black thought Black's reasoning was correct on the law, but thought he didn't go far enough and the statute should be struck down as excessive entanglement.

But that doesn't fit your narrative of Black hoping to bash Catholics, so you skipped that part. Once again, since you've been forced to twist the facts to make your argument, you've ended up lying. As usual. Do you ever get tired of having to support your chosen arguments by lying? I thought you believed in some sort of objective morality. Does your morality say that lying is okay if you are lying for Jesus?

"Wall of separation" has a 150 year pedigree prior to 1947, and that pedigree wore a sheet.

Your arguments just get dumber and dumber. Your efforts to explain away a unanimous position decided by the Supreme Court by pointing to one justice and spinning a conspiracy story is laughably stupid. I figure if this trend continues, within a month or two you'll be reduced to little more than screams and grunts.

So you're arguing that "wall of separation" was not an essential doctrine of nativist, anti-Catholic, and Klan ideology?

Are you claiming that unanimity of the opinion on the Court is evidence that "wall of separation" wasn't a code word for anti-Catholic bigotry?

Exactly what is your "argument"?

"You don't understand why the federal government gets involved in civil rights when the states fail to protect them?"
I don't understand why a states are FOR if they do not protect the rights of the citizen, or WHY they are called 'states' if they do not hold at least THAT much sovereignty.

"continue to be an idiotic reason to dismiss them."
Idiotic? If it is to be that type of convo, f**k you too, A$hole :)

"Cultural blind spot. "
THAT makes some sense. If I take your meaning correctly. A little 'in your own' words stuff would be great here. one liners say so little.

"Some were pro-abolution (or had abolutionist leanings),"
Not the men we are discussing.

"heck, sit down to a family dinner and listen to your grandfather or uncle say the most horribly racist things as though it was perfectly normal. And that's just a gap of a generation or two"
I am a parent of an adult son, have another babe on the way, and am not far off being a grandparent.
I loved my family, who are all gone now. Dad and I lived with Grandma and Granddad for most of my childhood. The folks did not sit about ranting on racial issues. There was no 'horribly racist' talk about our dinner tables. The 'horrible' talk from Granddad and grandma was about the terrible BOMBINGS and WAR they lived through as youths. Granddad was 'one of the few', an RAF officer decorated for his service - including the battle of Britain (ie the reason we speak English in NA today). My Grandfathers BOTH FOUGHT against a horribly racist regime and had no patience for racism( 'racial prejudices' or 'racialism' as it was known to him) OR positivism. My Grandmothers both did work of 'national importance' with their families and friends funerals for weekend entertainment. All this horror was courtesy of their 'Aryan Brothers' in Germany.
Racism?
Not my folks.
Your right on the generation gap though.
We have gone from stoic and tough to soft and nerdy in 3 generations.

crusadeREX "I don't understand why a states are FOR if they do not protect the rights of the citizen, or WHY they are called 'states' if they do not hold at least THAT much sovereignty."
They did have that much sovereignty. Up until the 14th Amendment (and its Due Process Clause), they had a lot more leeway. And before the Civil War, they had even more leeway.
They can still "experiment", but a bunch of the previous experiments' results have either been set in stone nationally, or discarded as undesirable.
States exist primarily so that city-level politicians have someone above them to blame. And those states formed a country because the states need someone above them to blame.

"Idiotic? If it is to be that type of convo, f**k you too, A$hole :)"
Dismissing a pair of Founding Fathers because, while in some ways they were ahead of the curve, in others they were products of their time is idiotic. They weren't perfect, nor omniscient. They were people. People in a time when slavery was pretty much the default and, if memory serves, wives and children were property.
If Jefferson owned slaves now, that would be more of an issue. And not just with the slavery thing an immortal Jefferson would be pretty off-putting all by itself.

"THAT makes some sense. If I take your meaning correctly."
Hindsight is 20/20. Foresight is much harder. They didn't have the advantage of living in 2011, looking back. They were stuck firmly in the 18th century. Abolitionism in the rest of the British Empire didn't see real successes for another thirty years. "Our Peculiar Institution", a term that came in to use at about that time, wasn't so peculiar during the FF's time.

"Not the men we are discussing."
Not those two (I doubt it's that black and white, even for Jefferson). Other FFs, yes (Adams, Hamilton. By the mid 1780s, Franklin).

"The folks did not sit about ranting on racial issues. There was no 'horribly racist' talk about our dinner tables. "
I must have different relatives than you (which is probably for the best, as we aren't related).
I have an aunt, for example, who refers (or, at least, referred) to everybody from North Africa east through India as "towel heads". She's mellowed with age, though. She's also not a drunk anymore, which probably helps more than the aging. But enough about my tangled family tree.

"We have gone from stoic and tough to soft and nerdy in 3 generations."
Is my webcam on?

Are you claiming that unanimity of the opinion on the Court is evidence that "wall of separation" wasn't a code word for anti-Catholic bigotry?

I'm pointing out that a collection of Justices with no links of any kind to the KKK who had very favorable opinions of religious practices agreed that this was the correct interpretation of the Constitution. Even if one were to stipulate that Hugo Black was a frothing at the mouth anti-Catholic bigot, you have failed to explain why eight other justices agreed with him and four thought he didn't go far enough.

Your conspiracy theory concerning the foundation of the Everson decision is ludicrous when subjected to any kind of examination at all. It falls apart like the wet tissue paper it is constructed from. In short - the Everson decision was rooted in well-established Establishment Clause jurisprudence - so well-established that all nine Justices agreed with the majority opinion concerning what the clause meant.

Hitler was opposed to abortion. Does that morally taint your opposition to abortion? Are you pro-Hitler because you are anti-abortion?

There's a saying among laywers:

"When you have evidence, argue the evidence. When you have the law, argue the law. When you have neither, pound the table."

This needs to be amended based upon Egnor's rants with the following addition:

"When pounding the table doesn't work, froth at the mouth like Egnor and call your opponents Nazis."

Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of the people (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. They later buttressed this separation with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

Some try to pass off the Supreme Court’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education as simply a misreading of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists–as if that were the only basis of the Court’s decision. Instructive as that letter is, it played but a small part in the Court’s decision. Perhaps even more than Jefferson, James Madison influenced the Court’s view. Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (

1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

During his presidency, Madison also vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. Separation of church and state is not a recent invention of the courts.

The KKK-anti-Catholic smear against Justice Black is sometimes offered as an explanation for his opinion in Everson v. Board of Education--even though nothing in his opinions remotely supports that claim, all nine justices agreed on the principle that the First Amendment called for separation of church and state (so it was hardly just Black's doing), and Black led the majority of five in holding that the principle did NOT preclude state funding of transportation of students to parochial schools.

The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.


'A Wall of Separation' FBI Helps Restore Jefferson's Obliterated Draft

Following is an article by the curator of a major exhibition at the Library that opens this month and runs through Aug. 22. A key document on view in "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic" (see LC Information Bulletin, May 1998), is the letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, which contains the phrase "a wall of separation between church and state." With the help of the FBI, the draft of the letter, including Jefferson's obliterated words, are now known.

Thomas Jefferson's reply on Jan. 1, 1802, to an address from the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, congratulating him upon his election as president, contains a phrase that is as familiar in today's political and judicial circles as the lyrics of a hit tune: "a wall of separation between church and state." This phrase has become well known because it is considered to explain (many would say, distort) the "religion clause" of the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . " a clause whose meaning has been the subject of passionate dispute for the past 50 years.

During his lifetime, Jefferson could not have predicted that the language in his Danbury Baptist letter would have endured as long as some of his other arresting phrases. The letter was published in a Massachusetts newspaper a month after Jefferson wrote it and then was more or less forgotten for half a century. It was put back into circulation in an edition of Jefferson's writings, published in 1853, and reprinted in 1868 and 1871.

The Supreme Court turned the spotlight on the "wall of separation" phrase in 1878 by declaring in Reynolds v. United States "that it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [first] amendment."

The high court took the same position in widely publicized decisions in 1947 and 1948, asserting in the latter case, McCollum v. Board of Education, that, "in the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'" Since McCollum forbade religious instruction in public schools, it appeared that the court had used Jefferson's "wall" metaphor as a sword to sever religion from public life, a result that was and still is intolerable to many Americans.

Some Supreme Court justices did not like what their colleagues had done. In 1962, Justice Potter Stewart complained that jurisprudence was not "aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the 'wall of separation,' a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution." Addressing the issue in 1985, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist lamented that "unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson's misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years." Defenders of the metaphor responded immediately: "despite its detractors and despite its leaks, cracks and its archways, the wall ranks as one of the mightiest monuments of constitutional government in this nation."

Given the gravity of the issues involved in the debate over the wall metaphor, it is surprising that so little effort has been made to go behind the printed text of the Danbury Baptist letter to unlock its secrets. Jefferson's handwritten draft of the letter is held by the Library's Manuscript Division. Inspection reveals that nearly 30 percent of the draft -- seven of 25 lines -- was deleted by the president prior to publication. Jefferson indicated his deletions by circling several lines and noting in the left margin that they were to be excised. He inked out several words in the circled section and a few words elsewhere in the draft. He also inked out three entire lines following the circled section. Click here to see the text of the final letter.

Since the Library plans to display Jefferson's handwritten draft of the Danbury Baptist letter in its forthcoming exhibition "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic," the question was raised whether modern computer technology could be used to uncover Jefferson's inked-out words, so that the unedited copy of the letter might be shown to viewers alongside Jefferson's corrected draft. The Library requested the assistance of FBI Director Louis Freeh, who generously permitted the FBI Laboratory to apply its state-of-the-art technology to the task of restoring Jefferson's obliterated words. The FBI was successful, with the result that the entire draft of the Danbury Baptist letter is now legible (below). This fully legible copy will be seen in the exhibition in the company of its handwritten, edited companion draft. Click here to see Jefferson's unedited text. By examining both documents, viewers will be able to discern Jefferson's true intentions in writing the celebrated Danbury Baptist letter.

The edited draft of the letter reveals that, far from being dashed off as a "short note of courtesy," as some have called it, Jefferson labored over its composition. For reasons unknown, the address of the Danbury Baptists, dated Oct. 7, 1801, did not reach Jefferson until Dec. 30, 1801. Jefferson drafted his response forthwith and submitted it to the two New England Republican politicians in his Cabinet, Postmaster General Gideon Granger of Connecticut and Attorney General Levi Lincoln of Massachusetts. Granger responded to Jefferson on Dec. 31.

The next day, New Year's Day, was a busy one for the president, who received and entertained various groups of well-wishers, but so eager was he to complete his answer to the Danbury Baptists that, amid the hubbub, he sent his draft to Lincoln with a cover note explaining his reasons for writing it. Lincoln responded immediately just as quickly, Jefferson edited the draft to conform to Lincoln's suggestions, signed the letter and released it, all on New Year's Day, 1802.

That Jefferson consulted two New England politicians about his messages indicated that he regarded his reply to the Danbury Baptists as a political letter, not as a dispassionate theoretical pronouncement on the relations between government and religion. His letter, he told Lincoln in his New Year's Day note, was meant to gratify public opinion in Republican strongholds like Virginia, "being seasoned to the Southern taste only."

Expressing his views in a reply to a public address also indicated that Jefferson saw himself operating in a political mode, for by 1802 Americans had come to consider replies to addresses, first exploited as political pep talks by John Adams in 1798, as the prime vehicles for the dissemination of partisan views. A few weeks earlier, on Nov. 20, 1801, Jefferson had, in fact, used a reply to an address from the Vermont legislature to signal his intention to redeem a campaign promise by proposing a tax reduction at the beginning of the new session of Congress in December.

In his New Year's note to Lincoln, Jefferson revealed that he hoped to accomplish two things by replying to the Danbury Baptists. One was to issue a "condemnation of the alliance between church and state." This he accomplished in the first, printed, part of the draft. Jefferson's strictures on church-state entanglement were little more than rewarmed phrases and ideas from his Statute Establishing Religious Freedom (1786) and from other, similar statements. To needle his political opponents, Jefferson paraphrased a passage, that "the legitimate powers of government extend to . acts only" and not to opinions, from the Notes on the State of Virginia, which the Federalists had shamelessly distorted in the election of 1800 in an effort to stigmatize him as an atheist. So politicized had church-state issues become by 1802 that Jefferson told Lincoln that he considered the articulation of his views on the subject, in messages like the Danbury Baptist letter, as ways to fix his supporters' "political tenets."

The page, before and after restoration.

Airing the Republican position on church-state relations was not, however, Jefferson's principal reason for writing the Danbury Baptist letter. He was looking, he told Lincoln, for an opportunity for "saying why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors did" and latched onto the Danbury address as the best way to broadcast his views on the subject. Although using the Danbury address was "awkward" -- it did not mention fasts and thanksgivings -- Jefferson pressed it into service to counter what he saw as an emerging Federalist plan to exploit the thanksgiving day issue to smear him, once again, as an infidel.

Jefferson's hand was forced by the arrival in the United States in the last week of November 1801 of what the nation's newspapers called the "momentous news" of the conclusion between Britain and France of the Treaty of Amiens, which relieved the young American republic of the danger that had threatened it for years of being drawn into a devastating European war. Washington had proclaimed a national thanksgiving in 1796 to commemorate a much more ambiguous foreign policy achievement, the ratification of Jay's Treaty that attempted to adjust outstanding differences with Great Britain. Would Jefferson, the Federalists archly asked, not imitate the example of his illustrious predecessor and bid the nation to thank God for its delivery from danger by the Treaty of Amiens? The voice of New England Federalism, the Boston Columbian Centinel, cynically challenged Jefferson to act. "It is highly probable," said the Centinel on Nov. 28, 1801, "that on the receipt of the news of Peace in Europe, the President will issue a Proclamation recommending a General Thanksgiving. The measure, it is hoped, will not be denounced by the democrats as unconstitutional, as previous Proclamations have been."

The Centinel and its Federalist readers knew that Jefferson would never issue a Thanksgiving proclamation, for to him and the Republican faithful in the middle and southern states, presidential thanksgivings and fasts were anathema, an egregious example of the Federalists' political exploitation of religion. Federalist preachers had routinely used fast and thanksgiving days to revile Jefferson and his followers, going so far in 1799 as to suggest that a Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic was a divine punishment for Republican godlessness.

During the Adams administration, Republicans organized street demonstrations against presidential fast days, ridiculed them in the newspapers and boycotted them. Since Federalists knew that Jefferson would never proclaim a national thanksgiving to praise God for the Treaty of Amiens, they calculated that they could use his dereliction as evidence of his continuing contempt for Christianity, which had spilled out again, in their view, in his invitation to "Citizen" Thomas Paine to return from France to the United States.

To offer the nation's hospitality to Paine, author of The Age of Reason, the "atheist's bible" to the faithful, was, the Washington Federalist charged on Dec. 8, 1801, an "open and daring insult offered to the Christian religion." Here, for the Federalists, was the same old Jefferson, the same old atheist. Political capital, they concluded, could still be made from sounding the alarm about presidential infidelity.

During the presidential campaign of 1800, Jefferson had suffered in silence the relentless and deeply offensive Federalist charges that he was an atheist. Now he decided to strike back, using the most serviceable weapon at hand, the address of the Danbury Baptists.

Jefferson's counterattack is contained in the circled section of his draft and in the inked-out lines. He declared that he had "refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion," i.e., thanksgivings and fasts, because they were "religious exercises." This was conventional Republican doctrine that could be found in any number of party newspapers. On March 27, 1799, for example, an "old Ecclesiastic" declared in the Philadelphia Aurora that "Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer are religious acts belonging to the kingdom of Christ" over which the civil magistrate, in the American system, had no authority.

Jefferson took the gloves off when he asserted that the proclamations of thanksgivings and fasts were "practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church," i.e., by George III, King of England. By identifying the proclamation of thanksgivings and fasts as "British," Jefferson damned them, for in the Republican lexicon British was a dirty word, a synonym for "Anglomane," "Monocrat," "Tory," terms with which the Republicans had demonized the Federalists for a decade for their alleged plans to reverse the Revolution by reimposing a British-style monarchy on the United States. One of the most obnoxious features of the Federalists' American monarchy, as the Republicans depicted their putative project, was a church established by law, and Jefferson doubtless expected those who read his message to understand that, by supporting "British" fasts and thanksgivings, the Federalists were scheming, as always, to open a door to the introduction of an ecclesiastical tyranny.

In indicting the Federalists for their "Tory" taste for thanksgivings and fasts, Jefferson was playing rough. Thanksgivings and fasts had regularly been celebrated in parts of the country since the first settlements: to sully them with Anglophobic mudslinging, generated by the partisan warfare of his own time, as Jefferson did, was a low blow. But who was being more unfair: Jefferson or his Federalist inquisitors, who continued to calumniate him as an atheist?

The unedited draft of the Danbury Baptist letter makes it clear why Jefferson drafted it: He wanted his political partisans to know that he opposed proclaiming fasts and thanksgivings, not because he was irreligious, but because he refused to continue a British practice that was an offense to republicanism. To emphasize his resolve in this matter, Jefferson inserted two phrases with a clenched-teeth, defiant ring: "wall of eternal separation between church and state" and "the duties of my station, which are merely temporal." These last words -- "merely temporal" -- revealed Jefferson's preoccupation with British practice. Temporal, a strong word meaning secular, was a British appellation for the lay members of the House of Lords, the Lords Temporal, as opposed to the ecclesiastical members, the Lords Spiritual. "Eternal separation" and "merely temporal" -- here was language as plain as Jefferson could make it to assure the Republican faithful that their "religious rights shall never be infringed by any act of mine."

Jefferson knew and seemed to savor the fact that his letter, as originally drafted, would give "great offense" to the New England Federalists. Reviewing the draft on Dec. 31, Postmaster General Granger, the object of unremitting political harassment in Connecticut, cheered Jefferson on, apparently welcoming the "temporary spasms" that he predicted the letter would produce "among the Established Religionists" in his home state. When Levi Lincoln, a cooler head, saw the letter the next day, he immediately perceived that, as written, it could hurt Jefferson politically among the growing number of Republicans in New England. People there, Lincoln warned Jefferson, "have always been in the habit of observing fasts and thanksgivings in performance of proclamations from their respective Executives." To disparage this custom with an "implied censure" by representing it as a tainted, Tory ceremony could be politically disastrous, however well the slur might play south of the Hudson River.

Before and after: Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists contained the famous phrase "a wall of separation between church and state (in the sentence just before the area circled for deletion). The text as recovered by the FBI Laboratory shows that Jefferson first wrote "a wall of eternal separation." In the deleted section Jefferson explained why he refused to proclaim national days of fasting and thanksgiving, as his predecessors, Adams and Washington, had done. In the left margin, next to the deleted section, Jefferson noted that he excised the section to avoid offending "our republican friends in the eastern states" who cherished days of fasting and thanksgiving. Click here to see the unedited text of the letter.

Jefferson heeded Lincoln's advice, with the result that he deleted the entire section about thanksgivings and fasts in the Danbury draft, noting in the left margin that the "paragraph was omitted on the suggestion that it might give uneasiness to some of our republican friends in the eastern states where the proclamation of thanksgivings etc. by their Executives is an antient habit & is respected." Removed in the process of revision was the designation of the president's duties as "merely temporal" "eternal" was dropped as a modifier of "wall." Jefferson apparently made these changes because he thought the original phrases would sound too antireligious to pious New England ears.

In gutting his draft was Jefferson playing the hypocrite, sacrificing his principles to political expediency, as his Federalist opponents never tired of charging? By no means, for the Danbury Baptist letter was never conceived by Jefferson to be a statement of fundamental principles it was meant to be a political manifesto, nothing more.

Withholding from the public the rationale for his policy on thanksgivings and fasts did not solve Jefferson's problem, for his refusal to proclaim them would not escape the attention of the Federalists and would create a continuing vulnerability to accusations of irreligion. Jefferson found a solution to this problem even as he wrestled with the wording of the Danbury Baptist letter, a solution in the person of the famous Baptist preacher John Leland, who appeared at the White House on Jan. 1, 1802, to give the president a mammoth, 1,235-pound cheese, produced by Leland's parishioners in Cheshire, Mass.

One of the nation's best known advocates of religious liberty, Leland had accepted an invitation to preach in the House of Representatives on Sunday, Jan. 3, and Jefferson evidently concluded that, if Leland found nothing objectionable about officiating at worship on public property, he could not be criticized for attending a service at which his friend was preaching. Consequently, "contrary to all former practice," Jefferson appeared at church services in the House on Sunday, Jan. 3, two days after recommending in his reply to the Danbury Baptists "a wall of separation between church and state" during the remainder of his two administrations he attended these services "constantly."

Jefferson's participation in House church services and his granting of permission to various denominations to worship in executive office buildings, where four-hour communion services were held, cannot be discussed here these activities are fully illustrated in the forthcoming exhibition. What can be said is that going to church solved Jefferson's public relations problems, for he correctly anticipated that his participation in public worship would be reported in newspapers throughout the country. A Philadelphia newspaper, for example, informed its readers on Jan. 23, 1802, that "Mr. Jefferson has been seen at church, and has assisted in singing the hundredth psalm." In presenting Jefferson to the nation as a churchgoer, this publicity offset whatever negative impressions might be created by his refusal to proclaim thanksgiving and fasts and prevented the erosion of his political base in God-fearing areas like New England.

Jefferson's public support for religion appears, however, to have been more than a cynical political gesture. Scholars have recently argued that in the 1790s Jefferson developed a more favorable view of Christianity that led him to endorse the position of his fellow Founders that religion was necessary for the welfare of a republican government, that it was, as Washington proclaimed in his Farewell Address, indispensable for the happiness and prosperity of the people. Jefferson had, in fact, said as much in his First Inaugural Address. His attendance at church services in the House was, then, his way of offering symbolic support for religious faith and for its beneficent role in republican government.

It seems likely that in modifying the draft of the Danbury Baptist letter by eliminating words like "eternal" and "merely temporal," which sounded so uncompromisingly secular, Jefferson was motivated not merely by political considerations but by a realization that these words, written in haste to make a political statement, did not accurately reflect the conviction he had reached by the beginning of 1802 on the role of government in religion. Jefferson would never compromise his views that there were things government could not do in the religious sphere -- legally establish one creed as official truth and support it with its full financial and coercive powers. But by 1802, he seems to have come around to something close to the views of New England Baptist leaders such as Isaac Backus and Caleb Blood, who believed that, provided the state kept within its well-appointed limits, it could provide "friendly aids" to the churches, including putting at their disposal public property that even a stickler like John Leland was comfortable using.

Analyzed with the help of the latest technology, the Danbury Baptist letter has yielded significant new information. Using it to fix the intent of constitutional documents is limited, however, by well established rules of statutory construction: the meaning of a document cannot be determined by what a drafter deleted or by what he did concurrently with the drafting of a document. But it will be of considerable interest in assessing the credibility of the Danbury Baptist letter as a tool of constitutional interpretation to know, as we now do, that it was written as a partisan counterpunch, aimed by Jefferson below the belt at enemies who were tormenting him more than a decade after the First Amendment was composed.


The Wall of Separation Between Church and State

Dr. Patton is Associate Professor of Economics at Bellevue University, a liberal arts college located at Bellevue, Nebraska. He is also editor of The Bottom Line, a scholarly quarterly published by the Entrepreneurial Leadership Center of the University.

Most Americans have been conditioned to believe and to assume that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a &ldquowall of separation between Church and State.&rdquo This concept is seldom challenged today . . . but it is not actually a part of the Constitution or any of the Amendments it did not exist until well into the twentieth century.

The establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment state: &ldquoCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.&rdquo The meaning was crystal clear to Americans and American jurisprudence for generations. Very simply, the federal government was prohibited from establishing a single national denomination above all others (a state religion&mdashendowed with public funding, special privileges, and penalties on other faiths that reject its doctrines&mdashas Great Britain had) and secondly, the federal government could not interfere with the individual&rsquos right to freedom of worship.

The purpose of the First Amendment was not to protect Americans from religion, it was to protect religion from government intrusion. This &ldquounderstanding&rdquo is in full and obvious accord with the raison d&rsquoetre of the Bill of Rights to limit the federal government&rsquos power and thereby secure the freedom of individuals and the rights of the states. The Bill of Rights was a declaration of what the federal government could not do.

The intent of the First Amendment could never have been to separate church and state. Virtually all state constitutions of that day required their elected officials to affirm belief in the Christian faith. [1] Not one of the states would have ratified the First Amendment in violation of their constitutions had its purpose been to separate religious principles from public life.

Quotations from the framers of the Constitution and other leaders of early America illustrate this great principle. George Washington as our first President said, &ldquoOf all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.&rdquo And our second President, John Adams, told us, &ldquoIt is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles under which Freedom can securely stand.&rdquo Benjamin Franklin echoed Adams&rsquo sentiment: &ldquoOnly a virtuous people are capable of Freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.&rdquo

On the same theme, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Signer of the Declaration and a leading thinker of the period, said that, &ldquoThe only foundation for a Republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty.&rdquo And James Wilson, who signed the Declaration and the Constitution for Pennsylvania, pointed out that &ldquoFar from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.&rdquo

No &ldquoWall&rdquo Planned

Yes, it would have been impossible for these God-fearing men to have deliberately built a &ldquoWall of Separation&rdquo between church and state. Here is how the phrase and eventually the concept of this &ldquowall of separation&rdquo originated.

In 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson. They were alarmed about a rumor. Was a national denomination soon to be established? Jefferson responded by letter on January 1, 1802, assuring them that there was no basis to the rumor. He said, &ldquoI contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,&rsquo thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.&rdquo

The Danbury Baptists were apparently satisfied. They understood the &ldquowall&rdquo to be one-directional, protecting them and other churches from possible discrimination and harm by means of a &ldquogovernmental-favored denomination&rdquo status. Nevertheless, Jefferson&rsquos eight-word phrase, &ldquoa wall of separation between Church and State,&rdquo has become the defining metaphor for today&rsquos misinterpretation of the First Amendment.

Obviously, Jefferson&rsquos letter and this phrase are not part of the First Amendment and it appears far-fetched legal &ldquoreasoning&rdquo to give it the force of law or to infer intent by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Jefferson&rsquos letter remained in relative obscurity until 1878, when the Supreme Court, in the case of Reynolds vs. United States, cited the whole letter. According to the Court, the &ldquowall of separation between Church and State&rdquo meant, &ldquoCongress was deprived of all legislative power over mere [religious] opinions, but was left free to reach [only those religious] actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.&rdquo Thus, the Court ruled against the Mormon practice of polygamy and bigamy because the Justices considered it to be subversive of good order. In other words, the Court used the concept of &ldquoseparation of Church and State&rdquo to keep a general religious principle, monogamy, integral to our society.

Nearly 70 years later, in the 1947 Supreme Court case of Everson vs. Board of Education, a major conceptual change occurred. Citing only Jefferson&rsquos eight words (&ldquoa wall of separation between Church and State&rdquo) and not their context or previous Supreme Court interpretations, it declared a new meaning: a separation of basic religious principles from public life. Indeed, Jefferson&rsquos eight words became the catch phrase for this new concept.

Then, in 1962 the Supreme Court, in the case of Engel vs. Vitale, redefined the word &ldquochurch&rdquo to mean &ldquoa religious activity in public.&rdquo The revolt against the roots of Americanism had begun in earnest. Separation of Church and State now meant the government (or state) and its institutions must be &ldquoprotected&rdquo from religion.

Since 1962 there have been over 6,000 court cases challenging religious expressions in public institutions and public life. For example, numerous court cases ruled that verbal prayers in public schools, even if voluntary and denominationally neutral, were un-Constitutional. In 1980, it was ruled that it was un-Constitutional to hang the Ten Commandments on the walls of public school classrooms (ironically, the Ten Commandments are engraved on the chamber walls of the Supreme Court). And in Virginia, a federal court ruled a homosexual newspaper may be distributed on a high school campus, but religious newspapers may not. Needless to say, a cultural war of mammoth proportions was unleashed by the Everson and Engel rulings.

The Tide Is Turning

Interestingly, and significantly, the 1990s have seen more and more court decisions based on the original intent of our Founding Fathers. The Supreme Court ruled in 1990, for instance, that it is permissible to have prayer and Bible clubs at public high schools. The justices also decided in another case that premarital sexual abstinence programs, while religious in nature, can be taught in public schools. The tide appears to be turning back to our traditional, Godly American heritage. []

1. David Barton, The Myth of Separation (Wallbuilder Press, 1991), pp. 25-35.


Watch the video: Wall of Separation: Thomas Jefferson and the Wall (August 2022).