RELIGION Twisting Words

Article excerpt

If misinformation is repeated frequently, people may believe it -- even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Such is the case with the separation of church and state, which is at the center of another lawsuit.

When a Louisiana girl started a Bible club for herself and her classmates, she wanted it to meet at their high school -- just like the Future Business Leaders of America and other student groups. School officials denied her request, however, saying such an arrangement would violate the "constitutionally mandated separation of church and state."

There is no such wording in the Constitution. The phrase comes from a letter written by founding father Thomas Jefferson, to reassure a minority religious group that he wouldn't personally interfere with their practices.

Jefferson didn't think government should be hostile toward religion. As a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, in fact, he had helped draft a resolution designating a "Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer."

He refused to make such declarations as president, however, because he believed the Constitution gave that power solely to the state governments. …