Adams v. Jefferson: The Freedom of Public Religion

First Things 141 (March, 2004): 29-34.

11 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2020

Date Written: March 1, 2004


While Thomas Jefferson’s theory of strict separation of church and state has long captured the 20th century constitutional and cultural imagination, it was his friendly rival John Adams’ theory of the freedom of both private and public religion that dominated American life until the 1940s and is returning to prominence in recent United States Supreme Court cases. This latter view is manifest in the historical and recent cooperation of church and state and in the recent First Amendment accommodation of all public expressions of peaceable religions.

Keywords: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, religious freedom, religious establishment, church-state relations, First Amendment, establishment clause, wall of separation, state funding of religion, public schools, religion and education, religion, law

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Adams v. Jefferson: The Freedom of Public Religion (March 1, 2004). First Things 141 (March, 2004): 29-34., Available at SSRN: or

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics