The topic of “Separation of Church and State” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the political sphere. I’m setting out in this brief commentary to provide some context on the topic, along with the position of a Constitutionalist.
- The phrase is not contained in the Constitution (although the average person may think it is).
- The phrase comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Rev. Roger Williams (of the Danbury Baptists), where Jefferson was borrowing “a wall of Separation” which were words used by Rev. Williams.
- The purpose and context of the letter was to assure the Danbury Baptists that the federal government would not establish a single denomination of Christianity as the national denomination.
- The phrase/letter was not about divorcing “church and state” as it is understood or referred to today.
The biggest misunderstanding is not even the concept of the “Separation of Church and State” itself, but a misunderstanding of:
- the construction of the US Constitution
- the first 10 Amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights)
The US Constitution documented the powers/authority delegated to the newly formed federal government (i.e. what the federal government could do). The Bill of Rights documented specifically what the federal government was not allowed to do (i.e. power/authority it didn’t have). Continue Reading →