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.
|Publisher:||New York University Press|
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About 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.
Most Helpful 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.