History of the often and loosely used phrase “Separation of Church and State”

The Court’s first encounter with the Establishment Clause was in the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education.[195] Prior cases had made passing reference to the Establishment Clause[196] and raised establishment questions but were decided on other grounds.[197] It was in the Everson case that the U.S. Supreme Court adopted Jefferson’s metaphor of “a wall of separation between church and state” as encapsulating the meaning of the Establishment Clause.  The often and loosely used phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution.  It became part of U.S. jurisprudence when the Court in the 1878 case of Reynolds v. United States[198] quoted Jefferson’s famous letter of 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association in narrating the history of the religion clauses, viz:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the Government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.[199] (emphasis supplied)

Chief Justice Waite, speaking for the majority, then added, “(c)oming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.”[200] 



About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Church and State, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Rights, Definitions, History, Religious Freedom, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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