Polemics & Exchanges

On Tearing Down the Wall

In “Freedom of Conscience” (Perspective, December), Thomas Fleming states that Thomas Jefferson’s “‘Wall of Separation’ existed only in his mind.”  This phrase, of course, was included in Jefferson’s 1802 letter to a group of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, as Dr. Fleming has pointed out in previous Perspectives.  Rather than implying exclusionary intent, the “Wall of Separation” was designed to reassure the Danbury Baptists that their religious freedoms would be observed and preserved in our new republic.  The First Amendment simply proscribes the federal government from establishing a national religion, but the myth that the Wall is included in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights gained currency in 1947 with the handing down of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Everson v. Board of Education.  Writing for the majority, FDR appointee Hugo Black incorrectly wrote that the “First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state.”  As might Dr. Fleming, I would challenge anyone to find its mention therein.  However, as one infamous totalitarian opined, when one tells a lie often enough, it begins to engender belief.

Since that date, the “Wall of Separation” has become a mantra for leftist groups such...

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