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Tearing Down The "Wall"
of Separation of Church and State

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

                             -- Ronald Reagan, Berlin, June 12, 1987

Of all the "separation of church and state" web sites we've seen, one stands out as the least belligerent and most systematic: The Separation of Church and State Home Page. Our purpose on this page is to link together the pages on that site with pages on ours which answer their claims.

The positive case for America as a Theocratic ("under God") "Christian nation" is found here. If you haven't already checked out that series of links, please do so now. That page makes it almost impossible to believe in the modern "separation of church and state" myth

This page is more negative; a rebuttal of a pro-separation site. On the left are links to the pages of the The Separation of Church and State Home Page. On the right are links to our answers. If there is no link we're working on it, but would appreciate your help.


Secular Humanists






Who are we, and why did we create this home page?

"We are concerned that this principle is under attack by the religious right."

Why did they REALLY create their home page?

The religious right does NOT attack the principle as it is defined by the Humanists; only the hidden agenda of the Secularists.

"[W]e think the religious right is wrong."

Who are we, and why did we bother to rebut their home page?

We think the religious right is not Theocratic enough.

2 What do they REALLY mean by "separation of church and state?"
  • Where did the phrase "separation of church and state" originate?
The origin of the phrase is not nearly as important as the origin of the concept.

The phrase originates in Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury,

This is true. As Russell Kirk (The Roots of American Order, p.437) notes
"The First Amendment established no "wall of separation" between State and Church; that phrase and that concept appear nowhere in the Constitution, or in any other official national document. Thomas Jefferson, in 1802, wrote a letter to an assembly of Baptists in which he argued that the First Amendment was intended to construct "a wall of separation between Church and State." But though doubtless that is what Jefferson desired from the First Amendment, it is by no means what Congress—and particularly the Senate—had in mind when it passed the Amendment in 1789; nor was the phrase "wall of separation" employed by Madison or any other notable advocate of the Amendment."

We consider and refute three other charges against Jefferson's wall metaphor elsewhere in this web page. If you want to read these sections now, click here,




and here.


Indeed, this is exactly what Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest American defenders of religious liberty, believed.

Jefferson is virtually the only person that separationists ever cite, because he was an outspoken critic of corrupt clergy. His remarks are easily taken out of context. People like Benjamin Rush, Sam Adams, (the list goes on), are never cited by separationists, because their anti-separationist statements are so clear as to be impossible to misunderstand. Nevertheless, nobody in the Religious right disagrees with anything this separationist page quotes Jefferson as saying .
10 Does a firefighter want to eliminate fire from public buildings? Follow the siren here.
11 To impose a Secular Humanist agenda, what else?

the religious right have talked openly of getting rid of separation. Their spoken and written comments on the subject leave no doubt where they stand

The "Religious Right" has never said anything about forming a national church. They have spoken about becoming more consistent with our national motto, which says we are a nation that trusts God, and is "under God." Here we see the hidden agenda of the separationists: a war on God.
13 An overview of the debate.  

As we document elsewhere, the assumption of the framers of the Constitution was that the federal government could exercise only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution.


This issue is the focus of our discussion in the sections of our web page entitled federalism and


absence of delegated powers.


A second issue is whether the First Amendment can itself be interpreted as a grant of power to the federal government. We discuss this issue in our section of this web page devoted to the grammar of the establishment clause.


The classic statement of this position is Justice Black's majority opinion in Everson v. Board of Education. These issues are discussed throughout our section of the web page devoted to the case for separation.


Some other controversies concern the interpretation of the word "establishment" in the First Amendment, what the framers meant by "respecting" establishment, and why the framers modified the word establishment with the word "an." We take on all these issues in our section on the grammar of the establishment clause.

  1. Separationists

    A classic summary of the broad interpretation is given in Everson v. Board of Education.

  2. Accomodationists.
  3. Non-preferentialists.
24 The Case for Separation of Church and State  

     multiple religious establishments,


     the worries of the anti-federalists


     Thomas Tucker


Grammatical arguments in favor of a broad reading of the establishment clause


Responses to grammatical arguments in favor of a narrow reading.


a popular non-preferentialist interpretation


Malbin on the history of the religion clauses,


and his discussion of Article III of the Northwest Ordinance


     Additionally, please consult our online collection of all the mentions of the religion clauses recorded in the Annals of Congress and the Senate Journal for the first Congress.)


     statements by anti-Federalists


[= What the Founders believed about separation, below]

  • The history of state establishments [coming soon!]
42 What the Founders believed about separation.  
  • As we demonstrate elsewhere, some of these quotes are either fabricated or taken out of context.
46 Why is George Washington missing from this list?

Why is Roger Sherman missing from this list?

Why has Charles Pinckney been added to this list?

47 James Madison  
48 James Wilson  
49 Rufus King  
50 Elbridge Gerry  
51 Edmund Randolph  
52 Charles Pinckney  
53 George Mason  
54 Alexander Hamilton  
55 Gouverneur Morris  
56 John Rutledge  
57 Caleb Strong  
58 George Read  
59 John Marshall  
60 John Vining  
61 Ben Franklin  
62 Fisher Ames  
63 James Monroe  
64 James McHenry  
65 Thomas Jefferson  
66 Samuel Adams  
67 Patrick Henry  
68 John Q. Adams  
69 John Adams  
70 Oliver Ellsworth  
71 Benjamin Rush  
72 John Jay  
73 John Randolph  
74 Joseph Story  
75 Henry Lee  
76 John Hancock  
77 John Witherspoon  
78 Noah Webster  
80 Isaac Backus  
81 John Leland  
82 Roger Williams  
84 Answering the religious right.  
85 1. The phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution.  
86 2. Jefferson's "separation of church and state" letter was hastily written and does not accurately represent Jefferson's view of church and state.  

     For the full text of Jefferson's letter to Lincoln, click here.


     For the full text of Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists, click here.

89 3. Thomas Jefferson actually said that the wall of separation between Church and State is "one-directional."  

     For a more complete explanation of Jefferson's beliefs, look here.

91 4. Jefferson's Danbury letter was written mearly to assure Connecticut Baptists that the Constitution did not permit the establishment of a national denomination.  

     the significance of Jefferson's Danbury letter


     a copy of the Danbury Baptist's letter to Jefferson survives


     This view, over course, is absurd, and we refute it here.

95 5. Jefferson's Danbury letter was written mearly to address the Danbury Baptists' fears that the First Amendment might be misinterpreted.  

   Barton's 1996 account of the Baptists' letter


    (his other attempts are examined here


    and here).

99 6. Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Rush shows that Jefferson was a non-preferentialist.  
100 7. Thomas Jefferson supported Bible reading in school; this is proven by his service as the first president of the Washington D. C. public schools, which used the Bible and Watt's Hymns as textbooks for reading.  

     Leonard Levy's book Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side

102 8. Federal officials take their oaths upon a Bible, and use the words "so help me God."  
103 9. The Northwest Ordinance proves that the First Amendment did not separate church and state.  

     First examine the history of the first sentence of Article III of the Northwest Ordinance.


    The Northwest Ordinance:


Finally, we note that:

109 10. The Supreme Court has declared that the United States is a Christian nation. Read the opinion of the Court
110 11. Depictions of Moses and the 10 Commandments are featured prominently in the Supreme Court Building; this proves that the founders had no intention of separating Church and State.  

     (click here for a more detailed discussion of the subordinate placement of Moses and the 10 Commandments in the architectural fabric of the Supreme Court building).


     the Supreme Court building committee deferred to the architects in their choice of artistic embellishment


     click here for a look for our critique of one popular accommodationist commentary on the art of the Supreme Court).

114 12. The Constitution is based on the Bible. This is proven by the frequency with which the founding fathers quote the Bible in their political writings.  
115 13. Montesquieu based his theory of separation of powers on Isaiah 33:22 and Jeremiah 17:9.  
116 14.As a general matter, the Constitution embodies the principles of Christianity and the 10 Commandments.  
120 Misquoting by the religious right.  
121 1. Did Madison ever say that our future is staked on the 10 commandments?  
122 2. Did Madison ever say that religion is the foundation of government?  
123 3. Did the Supreme Court of New York, in an 1811 decision, ever say that the First Amendment was "never meant to withdraw religion...from all consideration and notice of the law?"  
124 4. Did Supreme Court justice and early legal historian Joseph Story every say that, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, there was near universal consensus that "christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state?"  
125 5. Did John Quincy Adams ever say that the American Revolution "connected in one indissoluable bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity?"  
126 An alleged case of misquoting by Separationists:  
127 Does the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli say that "The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion?"   
The case against government-sponsored prayer.
Why school prayer is already legal, and why a school prayer amendment is unneeded, unworkable, and harmful to our civil liberties.
School prayer is not legal; secret, "individual" prayer in schools might possibly be, unless a teacher rules it to be a "disruption." The Founders believed in public CORPORATE school prayer and national prayer, not just secret individual prayer. There is secret individual prayer in a Soviet Gulag.
129 1. What would a school prayer amendment do?  
130 2. Is government-sponsored prayer needed?  

     What do the school prayer decisions actually say?


     Is prayer being suppressed in the public schools?


     Were prayer and Bible reading widespread before 1962?


     What about prayer during graduation ceremonies and official school activities?


     Addtionally, check out the definitive document explaining what is and is not legal with respect to religion in the public schools:  Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law.

136 3. Is government-sponsored prayer Constitutional?  
137 4. Will a school prayer amendment work?  
The case against school vouchers.
Why school vouchers are unconstitutional, and why they pose a grave threat to American education.
139 1. What are school vouchers?  
140 2. Are school vouchers needed?  

     Are private school parents doubly taxed?


     Are the public schools in decline?

143 3. Are school vouchers constitutional (this is long, but well worth reading)  
144 4. Will school vouchers work?  
145 Important Establishment Clause cases.  
  Standards for adjudicating establishment clause cases:  
146 Everson v. Board of Education  
147 The Lemon Test  
148 The Endorsement Test  
  Interpretive issues:  
149 pervasively sectarian institutions  
150 indirect vs. direct aid  
  The establishment clause and education:  
151 prayer in schools  
152 vouchers  
153 A Table of Establishment Clause Cases Dealing with Public Education.  
154 Some timely articles.  
155 Patricia King has written a powerful article on legal discrimination still faced by non-believers in America. It's an interesting counterpoint to the claims of the religious right that non-belief is ascendent in the public square.  
156 Have you ever wondered what can happen when a member of the religious right assumes a position of judicial authority? Deborah Arias found out firsthand when her New York divorce and custody case was assigned to a judge sympathetic to the religious right. Read about it in a essay I've entitled "A close encounter with the religious right."  
157 Is Halloween an attempt to instill satanism in the schools? That's what some people in the religious right want you to believe. This article by W. J. Bethancourt looks at the content of some religious right literature on Halloween and exposes its historical and logical fallacies.  
158 Charles Levendosky is an editorial writer for the Casper Wyoming Star-Tribune. This editorial is a scathing indictment of the religious equality amendment now circulating in Congress (he's promised to send us more on religious liberty themes when he writes about them).  


Important separationist documents.  
160 Historial separationist documents:  
161 Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom  
162 Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments  
163 Benjamin F. Underwood's The Practical Separation of Church and State  
164 Recent documents on religious liberty:  
165 Religion and the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law.  
166 Bill Clinton's memorandum on Religious Expression in the Public Schools (based on the Joint Statement, above; linked from the First Amendment Cyber-Tribune website).  
167 A Parent's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools (linked from the First Amendment Cyber-Tribune website).  
168 Religious Holidays in the Public Schools: Questions and Answers (linked from the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs website).  
169 A collection of Articles on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (linked from the Christian Science Committee on Publication website) RFRA is dead meat.
170 Some links of importance  

Was Reagan duped by "perestroika?"