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It seems that every time an election comes around, the vitriol surrounding church-state separation intensifies.  For 2010, I think this is best captured by the O’Donnell-Coons debate.  Both candidates are vying for the seat from Delaware being vacated by Sen. Kaufman.  In the debate, Ms. O’Donnell challenged her opponent on where in the Constitution it states that there is a separation of church and state.  Mr.  Coons, of course, turned to the establishment clause in the First Amendment and ended up getting the best of her.  However, does the First Amendment really place a wall of separation between the church and state?  Dr. Daniel Dreisbach, Professor of Justice, Law, and Society at the American University in Washington, D.C., has written an excellent critique of this point of view.  He clearly demonstrates the current understanding of the “wall of separation between church and state” is NOT what Jefferson intended.  Instead, the current understanding is essentially 60 years old, having been formulated as it currently stands by Justice Black in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education.  Furthermore, Dr. Dreisbach argues the wall of separation metaphor, as it is construed, results in intolerance toward people of faith and hinders the rights of religious individuals to express their faith in the public square.  I highly recommend the article as a good introduction to the problems inherent to the modern church-state separation in the United States of America.

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