Separation Of Church And State
|From School Prayer In America
Today, many Americans think that the First Amendment says "Separation of Church and State." The Courts and the media will often refer to a ruling as being in violation of the "Separation of Church and State." A recent national poll showed that 69% of Americans believe that the First Amendment says "Separation of Church and State." You may be surprised to learn that these words do not appear in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution!1 Here is what the First Amendment actually does say.
The First Amendment :
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.So where did the words "Separation of Church and State." come from? They can be traced back to a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote back in 1802. In October 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote to President Jefferson, and in their letter they voiced some concerns about Religious Freedom. On January 1, 1802 Jefferson wrote a letter to them in which he added the phrase "Separation of Church and State." When you read the full letter, you will understand that Jefferson was simply underscoring the First Amendment as a guardian of the peoples religious freedom from government interference. Here is an excerpt from Jefferson's letter. . .
Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the "wall", to separate the government from interfering with religious practice. Notice that the First Amendment puts Restrictions only on the Government, not the People! The Warren Court re-interpreted the First Amendment thus putting the restrictions on the People! Today the government can stop you from Praying in school, reading the Bible in school, showing the Ten Commandments in school, or have religious displays at Christmas. This is quite different from the wall Jefferson envisioned, protecting the people from government interference with Religious practice.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association he never intended the words "Separation of Church and State" to be taken out of context and used as a substitute for the First Amendment, but for all practical purposes is what the courts have done.
If actions speak stronger then words, it is interesting to note that 3 days after Jefferson wrote those words, he attended church in the largest congregation in North America at the time. This church held its weekly worship services on government property, in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capital Building. The wall of separation applies everywhere in the country even on government property , without government interference. This is how it is written in the Constitution, this is how Thomas Jefferson understood it from his letter and actions, and this is how the men who wrote the Constitution practiced it. http://www.schoolprayerinamerica.info/1separationchurchstate.html