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Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State

Philip Hamburger

ISBN 9780674013742

Publication date: 03/30/2004

In a powerful challenge to conventional wisdom, Philip Hamburger argues that the separation of church and state has no historical foundation in the First Amendment. The detailed evidence assembled here shows that eighteenth-century Americans almost never invoked this principle. Although Thomas Jefferson and others retrospectively claimed that the First Amendment separated church and state, separation became part of American constitutional law only much later.

Hamburger shows that separation became a constitutional freedom largely through fear and prejudice. Jefferson supported separation out of hostility to the Federalist clergy of New England. Nativist Protestants (ranging from nineteenth-century Know Nothings to twentieth-century members of the K.K.K.) adopted the principle of separation to restrict the role of Catholics in public life. Gradually, these Protestants were joined by theologically liberal, anti-Christian secularists, who hoped that separation would limit Christianity and all other distinct religions. Eventually, a wide range of men and women called for separation. Almost all of these Americans feared ecclesiastical authority, particularly that of the Catholic Church, and, in response to their fears, they increasingly perceived religious liberty to require a separation of church from state. American religious liberty was thus redefined and even transformed. In the process, the First Amendment was often used as an instrument of intolerance and discrimination.

Praise

  • Philip Hamburger has, simply, produced the best and most important book ever written on the subject of the separation of church and state in the United States. He has laid to rest the historical credentials of the Jeffersonian myth of the "wall of separation," and shown how the notion of separation gained wide acceptance in the nineteenth century primarily due to the pervasiveness of American anti-Catholicism. He has also destroyed the notion that separation is the only alternative to the union of church and state, and demonstrated that acceptance of separation has in fact undermined the vitality of our original anti-establishment notions of religious freedom. Hamburger underplays the current constitutional implications of his historical arguments, but it is clear that this book will have a profound impact on the current law and politics of church and state.

    —Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University, President, Emeritus, American Council of Learned Societies

Author

  • Philip Hamburger is Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and President of the New Civil Liberties Alliance. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of Separation of Church and State, Law and Judicial Duty, and Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

Book Details

  • 528 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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