By Daniel Dreisbach

No word in American letters has had a extra profound effect on church-state legislations, coverage, and discourse than Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation among church and state,” and few metaphors have provoked extra passionate debate. brought in an 1802 letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist organization, Jefferson’s “wall” is permitted by means of many american citizens as a concise description of the U.S. Constitution’s church-state association and conceived as a digital rule of constitutional law.

Despite the large impression of the “wall” metaphor, nearly no scholarship has investigated the textual content of the Danbury letter, the context during which it was once written, or Jefferson’s knowing of his recognized word. Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation among Church and State deals an in-depth exam of the origins, debatable makes use of, and competing interpretations of this strong metaphor in legislation and public policy.

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Additional info for Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State

Example text

63 The Reverend Dr. S. Congress from Massachusetts, derisively reported on the service: Last Sunday [3 January], Leland, the cheesemonger, a poor, ignorant, illiterate, clownish preacher (who was the conductor of this monument of human weakness and folly [the mammoth cheese] to the place of its destination), was introduced as the preacher to both Houses of Congress, and a great number of gentlemen and ladies from I know not where. The President, contrary to all former practice, made one of the audience.

He then apparently amended this sentence to read: “concurring with this great act of national legislation in behalf of the rights of conscience” (Jefferson apparently intended this sentence to continue with “I shall see with friendly dispositions the progress of those sentiments . ” from the initial draft). ” Both of these versions were inked out before Jefferson wrote the final version, which reads: 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.

52 The Danbury letter cannot be fully understood apart from the extraordinary political milieu in which Jefferson wrote it. ”53 The volatile political forces that shaped Jefferson’s letter did not strip the document of all principle, nor did Jefferson abandon for political reasons long-standing views on church-state relationships. Core Jeffersonian principles remained in the edited letter. His substantive revisions may have softened the letter’s political and rhetorical force. These emendations, however, did not deprive the epistle of its potency, as is confirmed by its expansive and enduring influence on American political and judicial discourse.

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