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Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State

The phrase “separation of church and state” is a widely known aspect of the United States government, but its meaning and origin is often less known to the average American citizen.
Separation of church and state was first found in Thomas Jefferson’s written letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, where he wrote discussed the Legislature’s role in making laws and how it was “building a wall of separation between Church and State.” He reaffirmed this view strongly during his second Inaugural address in 1805, explaining the need to separate the church from the federal government.
While Jefferson’s ideas of religious freedom were not new at the time, his words about the separation of church and state very well describe the intent of discussing religion in the Constitution. 

Religion in the U.S. Constitution
There are three locations in the U.S. Constitution where religion and the separation of church and state can be interpreted:
Article 6 Clause 3
o “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
o A religious test can simply include confirming or denying a religious affiliation.
First Amendment (1791)
o “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
o This amendment protects religious freedom by not allowing an official church for the state. The two key points are the establishment clause as well as the free exercise clause. Together, these justify the Supreme Court’s use of separation of church and state.
14th Amendment (1865)
o “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
o The Supreme Court felt that the due process clause applied to most of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment. Although religion is not clearly explained or defined in the Constitution, an originalist interpretation lead to the belief that due process could be applied to this separation of church and state.
While the United States government does not play any official role in religion and openly acknowledges this separation of church and state, this does not deter the religious beliefs of many citizens. With the defined separation of state, individuals have the religious freedom to openly express and practice their religion. Because of the separation of church and state, a variety of religions have survived and flourished in the United States.



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