Althouse on Separation of Church and State.--

Ann Althouse takes on the Nation, which is becoming a gross parody of its former greatness. She rightly criticizes the seemingly intentional misrepresentations of Brooke Allen about the framers' views of religion.

(Tip to Instapundit.)

In the course of effectively fisking Allen, Althouse several times says that James Madison in the 1780s favored Separation of Church and State. 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, with most majority opinions (whether upholding or striking down aid to churches) making no mention of Separation, except in the titles to articles cited in the footnotes.

This fascinating history is told in Hamburger's meticulous book on the subject.