Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Separation of Church and State: Constitutional Policy in Conflict

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Separation of Church and State: Constitutional Policy in Conflict

Article excerpt

Separation of Church and State: Constitutional Policy in Conflict

The phenomena instituted within the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses as part of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, will not be reconciled--still in present times, by Religious Right and Conservative Interest Groups in America. They are determined to bring back "no" Separation of Church and State. In fact, Professor Martin Marty (2008) of Religious Studies at the University of Chicago recently wrote that Republican Mike Huckabee, currently running as Presidential Candidate in the national primaries, even suggests that the United States Constitution needs to be amended and revised to reflect a more Godlike Constitution. ( martin_marty/2008/01/god_and_the_constitution.html).

Religious intolerance was common among American colonies before the Constitution was created in 1787. In fact, by the time the Declaration of Independence in 1776 was proclaimed by the new Nation's leaders, nine of the thirteen colonies had official' denominations (Bardes et al. 2008 and 2007, 111).

Further, the concept that Church and State should be established as separate entities, was also suggested by Dante Alighieri in 1312, when he wrote On Monarchy [De Monarchial: "... the best possible way to attain order and justice for the civilians of Florence ... [or the known world] ... is only with an all-knowing, good, strong, and just monarchy [empire or world government]. And that this type of temporal order will ensure the least conflict among men. The result will be universal peace ... Justice is strongest only under a monarch without interference from the Pope or Church (in 2007).

The Founding Fathers feared continued state denomination of religion and religious practices under their new Constitution of 1787. Therefore, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison with others, supported language that expressed a "Wall of Separation between Church and State" in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791 (McConnell et a12006, 44-46).

President Thomas Jefferson repeated his advocacy for a Wall of Separation between Church and State, when he wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802, in answer to their concerns of existing religious discrimination as a minority religion in the state of Connecticut ( The Association's letter was sent to Jefferson on October 7, 1801. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen S. Nelson asked the President to clarify whether the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses applied only to the Federal Government, or to national and state governments (ibid).

Jefferson believed so strongly in separation of church and state, that he, along with James Madison and James Mason, previously supported the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom beforehand in 1786. In fact, in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, (2) it was noted by the Representatives of Virginia on June 29, 1776 at their state convention in their "Bill of Rights" under Section 16 (ibid, 49):

   That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the
   manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and
   conviction not by force or violence: and, therefore, all men are
   equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the
   dictates of conscience ...

The original Constitution of 1787 had no language protecting general religious freedom, other than a statement under Article VI: "... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" (O'Connor and Sabato 2007, 80).

Colonists had experienced religious suppression previous to their Revolution, when in 1774, the English Parliament established Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism as official religions in the colonies. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.