The Public Interest

Getting over the wall

Robert H. Bork

Fall 2002

THIS year is the two hundredth anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association that asserted that the Constitution erected a “wall of separation between church and state.” So profoundly has that metaphor affected American attitudes toward religious liberty and religion’s dangers that most of us, including a majority of the Supreme Court, have forgotten that the “wall” is a constitutional myth without support in the words or actions of the Framers. Dissenting justices have pointed out that the First Congress, which proposed the First Amendment for ratification, also employed chaplains for the House, Senate, and armed forces, required that churches be built in the Northwest Territory, and called upon presidents to proclaim days of Thanksgiving to God (only Jefferson refused).

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