Not the Founders' Wall.--
Todd Zywicki took issue with the claim in a NYT editorial that "the founders, who came up with the idea of a clear wall of separation between church and state, had it right."
Zywicki ambiguously commented: "no one seriously believes that it was the founders who 'came up with the idea of a clear wall between church and state' do they?"
It is unclear whether Zywicki means that:
(1) the idea is of more recent origin than the founding of the US;
(2) the idea is older than the founding of the US; or
(3) whether or not the idea of separation was present at the founding, the first amendment was certainly not understood in the early 1790s to guarantee it.
Before reading any links, I assumed that Zywicki meant (2) or (3), since these are true. Will Baude took Zywicki to mean (1) and pointed out that Jefferson advocated separation in his 1802 letter to CT Baptists. On rereading, I think that Baude's interpretation of what Zywicki meant is at least as plausible as mine--and perhaps more so.
None of the Constititutional framers favored separation at the time of the adoption of the Constitution or the First Amendment. Only after Northern clergy had criticized the (supposedly immoral) Jeffersonian supporters in the 1800 election did the Jeffersonians try to silence them by advocating Separation.
As I wrote months ago:
As University of Chicago legal historian, Philip Hamburger, has shown in his history of the Separation of Church and State, none of the major framers favored Separation until about the election of 1800, when the Jeffersonians urged Separation to silence Northern clergy. Indeed, in the 1780s some religious leaders who were accused of wanting Separation denied such a misreading of their position. In the 1780s and early 1790s, a few religious dissenters favored Separation, but none of the insiders--certainly not Madison.
What Madison wanted in the 1780s was disestablishment of religion and equal liberty for different religions, not a "wall of separation."
In second half of the 19th century, the liberal wing of the Republican Party made a failed attempt to add Separation of Church and State as a constitutional amendment to the US Constitution (since it was not there already).
In the early 20th century, Separation became part of the jurisprudence of the KKK and other nativist groups (as well as some mainstream groups), and Hugo Black (ca. 1920) made new members of the Klan pledge to the eternal separation of church and state. Then in 1947, a labor organization with ties to the Klan brought a suit, Everson v. Board of Education, where then-Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court wrote Separation into the US Constitution.
The US Supreme Court has been quietly moving away from Separation as the metaphor in recent cases . . . .
This fascinating history is told in Hamburger's meticulous book on the subject.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Not the Founders' Wall.--
- The Founders' Wall (?):