Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Revisited

Thomas Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation” letter is a defining document in American culture, and for good reason. It was so powerful that Americans coined the term “separation of church and state” based off of one of its most famous lines: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson felt that religion should be based solely on an individual’s personal beliefs on the issue and not ever as the result of government intervention. He stated that government should make no legislation predicated on submission or deference to religious institutions, and religious activity should be voluntary, not mandatory or regulated, in civic domains.