Tea Party Candidates and the Religious Liberty Clauses

October 26, 2010
The First Amendment's religious liberty clauses, especially the principle they produce that calls for a certain amount of separation between government and religion, are drawing extra-special attention thanks to Tea Party-backed candidates for the Senate.

The Del. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell appeared, during a debate, to be surprised that the First Amendment has long been interpreted by the courts, as well as constitutional framers James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, to require a separation between government and religion.

And as The Huffington Post reports the Tea Party favorite in Colorado, Ken Buck, disagrees "strongly" with the principle of the separation of church and state. Like O'Donnell and the Tea Party-backed senate candidate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, and for that matter many religious right advocacy groups, Buck is disconcerted over the fact that the words do not appear literally in the First Amendment.

But as American University law school professor and Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin points out in this ACSblog post, the principle has been well-established in the federal courts, in part, due to writings by Madison and Jefferson. As Raskin notes, Jefferson wrote that the religious liberty clauses build "a wall of separation between church and state." Madison wrote in 1822 that religion and government "will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

[image via wikimedia commons