One of the most pernicious, and persistent, untruths peddled by the forces that want to merge religion and government is that there’s no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution.
It’s a facile claim, one easily demolished by taking the time to read some actual history. Yes, it’s true that the literal phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the First Amendment, but the concept certainly does.
Nevertheless, people who want to undermine church-state separation keep making the claim. The most recent was Stephanie Barclay, a law professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, who wrote a column for The Washington Post purporting to expose five “myths” about the Constitution. One of them was the old canard about separation of church and state not being in the Constitution.
Barclay is hardly a disinterested academic. Prior to joining the staff at BYU, she worked for the Becket Fund, a right-wing legal group that seeks to tear down the church-state wall. In 2021, she plans to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Americans United moved quickly to set the record straight. On Saturday, The Post printed a rebuttal letter from AU President and CEO Rachel Laser.
“Since our country’s founding, keeping religion and government separate has been the linchpin of true religious freedom – the right to practice your faith, or no faith at all, as long as you don’t harm others,” Laser observed.
Opponents of church-state separation have been trying to rewrite our nation’s history for years. Portraying church-state separation as unhistorical is a big part of their plan. Americans United isn’t about to let them get away with it. We know that church-state separation is a uniquely American principle, something that our people should take great pride in and celebrate. A crucial part of our defense of church-state separation is publishing materials – like this article debunking common Christian nationalist myths about separation of church and state and this one eviscerating the “Christian nation” claim – to give Americans the real story.
It’s important work. With your help and support, we’ll keep at it.