Separation of Church and State / Edition 1by Philip Hamburger
Pub. Date: 06/28/2002
Publisher: Harvard University Press
In a powerful challenge to conventional wisdom, Philip Hamburger argues that the separation of church and state has no historical foundation in the First Amendment. The detailed evidence assembled here shows that eighteenth-century Americans almost never invoked this principle. Although Thomas Jefferson and others retrospectively claimed that the First Amendment separated church and state, separation became part of American constitutional law only much later. Hamburger shows that separation became a constitutional freedom largely through fear and prejudice. Jefferson supported separation out of hostility to the Federalist clergy of New England. Nativist Protestants (ranging from nineteenth-century Know Nothings to twentieth-century members of the K.K.K.) adopted the principle of separation to restrict the role of Catholics in public life. Gradually, these Protestants were joined by theologically liberal, anti-Christian secularists, who hoped that separation would limit Christianity and all other distinct religions. Eventually, a wide range of men and women called for separation. Almost all of these Americans feared ecclesiastical authority, particularly that of the Catholic Church, and, in response to their fears, they increasingly perceived religious liberty to require a separation of church from state. American religious liberty was thus redefined and even transformed. In the process, the First Amendment was often used as an instrument of intolerance and discrimination.
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Table of Contents
I. Late Eighteenth-Century Religious Liberty
1. Separation, Purity, and Anticlericalism
2. Accusations of Separation
3. The Exclusion of the Clergy
4. Freedom from Religious Establishments
II. Early Nineteenth-Century Republicanism
5. Demands for Separation: Separating Federalist Clergy from Republican Politics
6. Keeping Religion Out of Politics and Making Politics Religious
7. Jefferson and the Baptists: Separation Proposed and Ignored as a Constitutional Principle
III. Mid-Nineteenth-Century Americanism
8. A Theologically Liberal, Anti-Catholic, and American Principle
9. Separations in Society
10. Clerical Doubts and Popular Protestant Support
IV. Late Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Constitutional Law
14. An American Constitutional Right
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Erudite, well-researched and pithy, Hamburger traces the history of the 'separation of church and state' controversy in this copiously documented and definitive work. Hamburger does a wonderful job in proving the first amendment to mean exactly what it says, and, instead of playing the historical relativist in support of the amendment impying the separation of church and state, shows that our founding fathers sought (through the first amendment) to disempower the established churches in early America. Hamburger also persuasivly documents how anti-Catholic nativism of the 19th and early 20th centuries did much to force the false idea that separation was guaranteed within the constitution in an effort to disenfranchise the feared Catholics. A must read! A veritable tour de force!
The 'History Professor' obviously did not read the book, for he would have noticed right off that Hamburger has put together a compelling, pithy argument for understanding how the interpretation of the first amendment has evolved over time. He is further incorrect in asserting that the founding fathers wanted a 'separation' as we understand its meaning today. Hamburger fully contextualizes his arguments: established vs. disestablished churches, protestantism vs. catholicism, humanistic deism vs. illiberal christianity. This book is erudite, well-footnoted and researched, and a must read for all who believe that the 'separation of church and state' is a given. Just read the first amendment and interpret it yourself -- isn't it plausible that it only intended to outlaw state established religion? This book is a whirlwind historical tour of a currently important topic.
The judicial pseudohistory of Thomas Jefferson's views, and indeed, his misrepresented role in First Amendment history are nothing less than scandalous intellectual dishonesty disguised as law. Phillip Hamburger's research helps to render this spurious 'legal research' untenable. Jefferson certainly opposed ESTABLISHED religion of any kind, but he was a nonpreferentialist who would be appalled at today's judicial misrepresentations of his actual positions on religious liberty. Three of his four quotes inside the dome of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial make reference to God. His chuch attendence on public property, his great fondness of the Baptists, his provision for a Catholic church and priest in an Indian treaty, and many other public actions are in complete contrast to the judicial caricature of him in prevelant jurisprudence. If truth and intellectual honesty matter one whit, Phillip Hamburger's volume belongs in the bibliography of any serious study of Thomas Jefferson and his views on religious freedom.
One only needs to read the speeches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison to know they all were very passionate about separating the church from the state. The author of this book has evidently not read the many letters written by our founding fathers. James Madison said in a speech in 1803: 'The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.'