Constitutional FAQ Answer #71 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #71

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Q71. “I cannot find anywhere in the Constitution
that refers to separation of church and state.”

A. Though many people assume the 1st Amendment
sets out some separation, the phrase does not appear in the Constitution. The
phrase “wall of separation” appears to have been coined
by Jefferson
, in speaking of the religious liberties granted by the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Madison, however, said that there is a
line between church and state, not a wall — the distinction may or may
not be significant.

In practice the separation is more theoretical than actual. In a truly
separate society, we would not invoke the name of God on our currency, nor
would we speak so highly of our Judeo-Christian values. But we do — the
fact of the matter is, completely separating religion and government is
probably impossible, so long as religion is an important part of the lives of
the citizenry. The best we can hope for, and what I think the Constitution
tries to protect, is to ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of
religious belief — that there be no religion litmus test.

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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