At the beginning of the modern controversy about the meaning GM3 of the First Amendment, Justice Wiley Rutledge wrote: “No provision of the Constitution is more closely tied to or given content by its generating history than the religious clause of the First Amendment. ” 1 For decades now, scholars and commentators adhering to radically differing interpretations have claimed that history unquestionably supports them. Yet no other provision of the Constitution has generated so much more rhetoric than reasoning. No other article of the Bill of Rights exists in a greater fog, resulting from the triumph of passion and party over historical imagination and evidence. No other amendment in its modern application varies more from the view of human nature that generated it.
Many writers confidently argue that the First Amendment's prohibition against an establishment of religion leads to the principle of separation. On close examination, however, this principle of separation means only that there shall be no establishment of religion. The Supreme Court committed itself to the rhetoric of a high and absolute wall of separation, but it has had to admit that this metaphor represents no more than whatever the justices say it represents.
The attitude of historical certainty can often only be maintained in combination with a vagueness that allows for grand historical pronouncements unchecked by any consideration of inconvenient evidence. For example, the Court decided that the meaning of No Establishment