Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” does not exist anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.
So where did the concept originate and what does it mean?
Have you ever wondered about the origin of the “Separation of Church and State”? Where did the concept originate and what exactly does it mean? Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “Separation of Church and State” does not exist anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.
In a time when confusion about the roles of government and religion seem to be at an all-time high, it’s crucial that we turn to the U.S. Constitution as our ultimate guide. It’s important to remember that the First Amendment restricts government interference with religion, not the other way around.
The Constitution does not contain the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.” Many use the phrase “Separation of Church and State” as a rallying cry, view it as the epitome of the First Amendment, or use it in an attempt to remove religious influence from the public square. However, the Constitution itself does not contain the phrase, “Separation of Church and State.”
The phrase originated after the Constitution was written, in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association. The Danbury Baptists wrote to President Jefferson in October of 1801 concerning their fear of government restrictions on their ability to continue as a minority religion in Connecticut (“religion” was used in the sense of a denomination of Christianity).
•First, the Establishment Clause forbids the government from establishing an official religion or denomination. The Supreme Court of the United States has interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that government action is unconstitutional if its primary purpose or effect is to advance or inhibit religion (or a particular religious viewpoint), or if it creates an excessive government entanglement with religion. The state is prohibited from endorsing a religion or coercing citizens to participate in religious activity.
•Second, the Free Exercise clause protects the ability of citizens to freely live out their faith. The freedom of religion is a cherished liberty protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court noted, in Lee v. Wiseman, that the First Amendment’s two religion clauses “mean that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State.”
Reported by: American Center for Law and Justice – ACLJ. org