I recently posted this article about the state license plates in Florida and South Carolina that have set off recent separation of church and state arguments. I basically assert that to protect the division between church and state, we sometimes compromise our first amendment rights, namely freedom of speech and also of religious expression. Again, you can click here for that article; for this post I have some new information.
I was discussing the establishment clause over dinner with my department head (it’s a small town). I mentioned that “separation of church and state” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc. He asked me if I knew where the statement did in fact come from. I honestly did not. I have been informed – by a history teacher with more education and experience than myself – that the term separation of church and state was first used in a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, the document that first declared there was a United States of America. A Baptist church was concerned that the Federal government was going to institute the Congregational Church as the state appointed church, and Jefferson wrote a letter to their minister saying there was enough “separation of church and state” that it wouldn’t happen. That letter was lost to the ages until sometime in the 1950’s when someone dug it up. Since that time, because of that letter, the establishment clause of the Constitution has been interpreted to mean separation, and the Supreme Court favors that document – a private letter between two citizens – over the Constitution wording and other legal documents.
Here’s a good link for further research: http://everynation.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/is-separation-of-church-and-state-in-the-bible/