How often have you heard it stated on TV, in the press, or at the water cooler that "the wall of separation between church and state" are words taken right out of the US Constitution? In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution - what is popularly referred to as "the establishment clause," the only part of the US Constitution that even deals with religion and faith - contains no reference whatsoever to a "wall of separation," or, for that matter, any sort of wording including the phrase "separation of church and state." the only words in the US Constitution concerning this topic are found in the First Amendment, where it is written, "Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." That's it. Yet these sixteen words have been elaborately interpreted by some as having a meaning that has no basis in the founders' intentions or historic records.
Where then has this mountain of contention come from, resulting in a "wall of misconception" between church and state, and indeed between God and government? The phrase "wall of separation" was coined by Thomas Jefferson in his private 1802 letter of response to the Danbury Baptist Association, wherein he reaffirmed the federal government's intention to protect the public's rights of conscience to believe and practice their faith without fear of interference from government.
Several prominent citizens' rights organizations will contend that this purported wall is being routinely breached by people of faith, yet others will assert that any action by the government to impede an individual's right to pray in school or at a public event, to display a Christmas tree in public, or to say "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is itself a Violation of the First Amendment.
US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a court opinion that "The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history... It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."
4 Audio CDs
About the Author
Peter A. Lillback is president of Westminster Theological Seminary. He also serves as the president of The Providence Forum. Previously he served as pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, PA.
About the Narrator
Ralf Augstroze is the executive director of The Providence Forum, as well as a voiceover artist, television producer, and cinematographer. He is the producer of the nationally syndicated Proclaiming the Word with Peter Lillback television program, and a frequent speaker on American history, heritage, and culture.
Publisher: Providence Books