The Separation of Church and State versus Religion in the Public Square

T. Jeremy Gunn

in No Establishment of Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860371
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950164 | DOI:
The Separation of Church and State versus Religion in the Public Square

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This chapter argues that modern understandings of the historical origins of the Establishment Clause largely reflect one of two basic understandings of the origins of the clause: one that promotes the separation of church and state, and a second that favors governmental promotion of religious activity in the “public square.” The historical evidence suggests that through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the term “separation of church and state” was broadly accepted by Americans as a constitutional value and constitutional ideal. This evidence draws into question Professor Philip Hamburger’s assertion that the term largely originated with nativists, “Know-Nothings,” and other anti-Catholics. Even the “Blaine amendment” controversy of the 1870s did not divide Americans with regard to the separation of church and state. Separation of church and state does not mean that religion will be removed from the public square, it means only that the government should not be involved in promoting religion. The Everson v. Board of Education decision was not innovative, but simply adopted widely accepted assumptions of the time.

Keywords: Establishment Clause; separation of church and state; public square; Philip Hamburger; Blaine amendment; anti-Catholics; nativists

Chapter.  14165 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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