Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State

Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State

by Daniel Dreisbach
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New York University Press
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Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State

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.

Author Biography: Daniel L. Dreisbach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Law, Justice, and Society at American University. He is the editor of Religion and Popular Culture in Jefferson's Virginia and Religion and Politics in the Early Republic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814719350
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 07/01/2002
Series: Critical America Series
Pages: 283
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 9.00(d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction2 The President, a Mammoth Cheese, and the “Wall of Separation”: Jeffersonian Politics and the New England Baptists 3 “Sowing Useful Truths and Principles”4 “What the Wall Separates” 5 Early References to a “Wall of Separation”6 Creating “Effectual Barriers”7 “Useful Truths and Principles . . . Germinate and Become Rooted” in the American Mind: Jefferson’s Metaphor Enters Political and Juridical Discourse 8 ConclusionAppendices1 Proclamation Appointing a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, May 17742 Address to the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Anne, 1774 3 Bills Reported by the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in 1776, 18 June 1779 4 Proclamation Appointing a Day of Publick and Solemn Thanksgiving and Prayer, November 1779 1375 Draft of “The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798,” November 1798 (excerpt) 6 Correspondence with the Danbury Baptist Association, 1801–1802 1427 Correspondence with the Citizens of Chesire, Massachusetts, January 1802 1498 Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1805 (excerpts) 9 Letter from Jefferson to the Reverend Samuel Miller, 23 January 1808 Notes Selected BibliographyAcknowledgmentsIndexAbout the Author 

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Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.