Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State
Recorded on November 12, 2002
The Heritage Foundation's Van Andel Center
No phrase in American letters has had a more profound influence
on church-state law, policy, and discourse than Thomas Jefferson's
"wall of separation between church and state," and few metaphors
have provoked more passionate debate. The "wall," in our time, has
become the locus classicus of the notion that the First Amendment
separated religion and the civil state, thereby mandating a secular
polity. American University professor Daniel L. Dreisbach argues
that the "wall" is used today in ways that its architect almost
certainly would not recognize and, perhaps, would even repudiate.
Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and
State offers an in-depth examination of the origins, controversial
uses, and competing interpretations of this powerful metaphor in
law and public policy.
This meticulously researched, balanced, and engaging book,
written for both specialist and nonspecialist readers, casts new
light on Jefferson's trope and challenges conventional
interpretations of the "wall of separation."
Daniel L. Dreisbach, D.Phil. (Oxford University) and J.D.
(University of Virginia), is a Professor in the Department of
Justice, Law, and Society at American University. He is the editor
of Religion and Political Culture in Jefferson's Virginia (2000)
and Religion and Politics in the Early Republic (1996).