Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and Stateby Daniel Dreisbach
No phrase in American letters has had a more profound influence on church-state law, policy, and discourse than Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state,” and few metaphors have provoked more passionate debate. Introduced in an 1802 letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association, Jefferson’s “wall”
No phrase in American letters has had a more profound influence on church-state law, policy, and discourse than Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state,” and few metaphors have provoked more passionate debate. Introduced in an 1802 letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association, Jefferson’s “wall” is accepted by many Americans as a concise description of the U.S. Constitution’s church-state arrangement and conceived as a virtual rule of constitutional law.
Despite the enormous influence of the “wall” metaphor, almost no scholarship has investigated the text of the Danbury letter, the context in which it was written, or Jefferson’s understanding of his famous phrase. Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State offers an in-depth examination of the origins, controversial uses, and competing interpretations of this powerful metaphor in law and public policy.
-John Witte Jr.,Michigan Law Review
- New York University Press
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 2 MB
What People are saying about this
“This book is vintage Dreisbach. . . . Anyone studying Jefferson's views of separation would be wise to use Dreisbach’s primary texts and to ponder his sage interpretation of them. This is a book that can be read in an evening, but pondered for a career.”
-John Witte Jr.,Michigan Law Review
“Excellent introduction to the thorny interpretive issues that continue to grow around Jefferson's wall.”
-The Journal of Southern History
“On an evaluative note, the book is helpful for gaining an understanding of the historical context of Jefferson’s metaphor.”
-Journal of Church and State
“In the opinion of this reviewer, Dreisbach is undeniably correct. His research is thorough, and his analysis comports with the history of the period. Dreisbach’s study of Jefferson's likely meaning when he utilized the phrase “wall of separation” makes a valuable contribution to an important area of the constitutional law, an area of great consequence to Christians. The fact that it is written by a law professor at a "top twenty" law school increases its significance and credibility in the scholar world. The book has a minimum of legal jargon and can easily be understood. Daniel Dreisbach’s book is highly recommended.”
-Faith and Mission
“Daniel Dreisbach’s book is a welcome and much needed addition to the scholarship on the First Amendment. Dreisbach analysis of Jefferson's metaphor, its political context, and consequences for church-state jurisprudence, provide an intellectual perspective as the Court and nation reconsider issues of accomodations of religion in the public square.”
-Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
Meet the Author
Daniel L. Dreisbach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice, Law, and Society at American University. He is the editor of Religion and Political Culture in Jefferson’s Virginia and Religion and Politics in the Early Republic.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
Occasionally one can say that a book is the very best on a subject. This book certainly deserved that description, and the author is to be commended. Daniel Dreisbach is both a Rhodes Scholar and holds a doctorate of jurisprudence from the University of Virginia. His meticulous research on Jefferson lays to waste the outlandish judicial misrepresentations of Thomas Jefferson's views on religious liberty. Dreisbach has made the most careful study of the badly misunderstood Danbury Baptist letter which contained Jefferson's famous 'wall of separation' phrase. It was not a statement of hostility toward chruches. It was a nonpreferentialist statement of his oppostion toward ESTABLISHED national religion. This volume alone makes it impossible for the federal courts to claim any intellectual honesty in their Jeffersonian basis for the prevailing jurisprudence in First Amendment cases. If religious liberty is to be understood, this book must be the centerpiece of all discussions on Thomas Jefferson's role in early America.