Understanding Jefferson’s "Separation of Church and State"
Published : December 1, 2017
These secular organizations base their argument on a phrase not found in our Constitution, but from a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Jefferson's letter was a response about the group’s concern with the possible establishment of an official United States Federal government church, just as there was in England with The Church of England.
To both Jefferson, who was not present at the Constitutional Convention, and James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution, the First Amendment was created to prevent the federal government from interfering with the freedom to worship or to not worship, as one sees fit, and to ensure that there would be no official U.S. state church or denomination mandated by the national government.
It is interesting to note that at the end of President Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists he wrote, "I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man." This is our public president advocating prayer and invoking God to our public citizens, illustrating Jefferson's understanding that the government could have an articulated and official expression of "God and government" within the "wall of the separation of church and state."