Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution.
However, in the First Amendment there are the establishment and free exercise clauses, which protects religion from government interference.
Freedom of Religion:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
Wall of Separation
Thomas Jefferson famously used the term “separation of church and state” when he wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 stating:
“legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
But he was not the person to invent the term, as Roger Williams, years before the founding fathers, wrote in his journal:
“[A] hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world”
– Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
The Lemon v. Kurtzman court case established the Lemon Test, which is used to identify the statute’s connection or lack of connection to religion.
The three prongs in the Lemon Test:
- Purpose- statute must have a secular legislative purpose
- Effect- statute must not advance nor hinder religion
- Entanglement- statue must not have “excessive government entanglement” with religion
For a law to be violating the establishment and free exercise clauses, it needs to fail at least one of the three prongs in the Lemon Test.
The Judicial branch is not the only place where the separation of church and state can be impacted.
With the passing of laws pertaining to lgbtq+ and reproductive rights occurring all around the US, this could affect the separation of church and state.
While lawmakers write these statutes to be secular, it can be argued that these laws have a religious basis, and that these arguments are mostly made out of a christian-based religious belief.
With the recent elections, the executive branch could be impacted by the separation of church and state. Biden is a Catholic, but unlike his predecessor, does not seem to be interested in closing the gap between church and state.
The republican party, in its platform, openly mentions “God,” or religion often, thus furthering the demise of church and state separation.
Republican Party Platform
Sage is a 16 year old junior in Howard County, MD. She spends her time drawing, painting, and participating in her community through protests, and fighting what she believes is right. She’s very passionate about art, and believes that it can bring communities together, impact people into learning new things, and can change peoples opinions towards a better future.