The Power of Metaphor: Thomas Jefferson's 'Wall of Separation between Church & State'
Julie A. Oseid
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 7, 2010
Some metaphors are so powerful that they remain the quintessential description of an abstract and complex ideal, despite attacks on their accuracy or helpfulness. This article examines one such powerful metaphor: Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor describing the First Amendment religion clause as “building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Perhaps no metaphor about church-state relations has been more powerful, more controversial, or more lasting.
This article has several goals: to examine how Jefferson’s understanding of metaphor differed from the modern understanding of the use of metaphor in a legal context, to study how Jefferson came to use the “wall of separation” metaphor, to consider how the metaphor developed into a doctrinal metaphor substituting for the language and meaning of the First Amendment religion clause, and to glean lessons for legal writers from Jefferson’s “wall of separation” metaphor.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 29, 2010
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