Separation of Church and State in Plain English

If you have ever studied the Constitution or American history, you have heard of the United States' separation of church and state. Unfortunately, the terms may not be as clear as they sound. There is actually quite a bit you need to understand about the American Constitution in order to see how this comes into play within the country. Not sure how this works? These points will help you better understand how the separation of church and state works.

1. Thomas Jefferson was the one who coined the phrase "separation of church and state."

The phrase was not first used in the Constitution, but it was coined by Jefferson. He wrote the phrase "separation of church and state" in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802

2. The concept is part of the First Amendment, but there is much more to it.

The first amendment of the American Constitution includes the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, in which it is stated that Congress may not establish an official religion for the country. Additionally, Congress may not prohibit free exercise of a religion. The First Amendment is also the part of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

3. The idea is also part of Article 6 of the Constitution.

Article 6 says that nobody will ever be required to participate in a religious test in order to be qualified for public office or a trust in the United States. This means that a politician does not have to be any certain religion in order to take office.

4. The phrase has been challenged several times.

The 1879 case Reynolds v. United States and the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education both challenged this section of the First Amendment. If we think of the Constitution as a living document, it is easy to see why these challenges occur and how they could shape the world around us.

5. The First Amendment does not force people not to practice.

For instance, a person being sworn into office is still allowed to swear in on a Bible or ask to say a prayer.

Building a better understanding of the First Amendment is one way to ensure that everybody understands the reasons why we have established these clauses. As many a history teacher will tell you, when we do not understand history, we may be doomed to repeat it.


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