That Serpentine Wall of Separation
44 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2003 Last revised: 14 Dec 2015
The wall of separation between church and state has been an abiding metaphor in the history of Western thought, and especially in the history of American law. This essay reviews two important new volumes that trace the evolution, and escalation, of separationist thought in America from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. While heartily commending these two books, this essay calls for a fuller appreciation of the historical antecedents of American separationist thought, a more nuanced account of the multiple understandings of separationism at the American founding, and a greater appreciation for the multiple principles of religious liberty that buttressed and buffered the principle of separation of church and state in the history of American law.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Establishment Clause, Legal History
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