Sunday, January 08, 2006

Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State

Some Christians are currently arguing that the concept of separating church and state was not in the minds of the founding fathers, and that it is a recent and pernicious doctrine that is the result of Supreme Court decisions in the 1950's and 60s.

This simply isn't true.

Separation of church and state is not something the Supreme Court invented in the 1950's and 60's. The phrase itself appears in a letter from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, on Jan 1, 1802.

The Baptist Association had written to President Jefferson regarding a "rumor that a particular denomination was soon to be recognized as the national denomination." Jefferson responded to calm their fears by assuring them that the federal government would not establish any single denomination of Christianity as the National denomination. He wrote: "The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between Church and State."

Notice the phrasing in the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Read the rest of the article at