A Hole in the Wall?: Separation of Church and State in the U.S. Constitution

May 28, 2024 @ 6:00 PM

In his letter to the Danbury Baptists intended to allay their fears of the Connecticut Congregationalists, President Thomas Jefferson said of the Constitution’s First Amendment that there is “a wall of separation between Church & State” in the United States. Since Jefferson’s statement over 200 years ago, the United States – through state and federal legislation, judicial decisions, and citizen activism – has wrestled with the boundaries of the First Amendment’s religious protections. Vacillating between religious nationalism and outright secularism, U.S. history has at various times built up Jefferson’s wall or rendered it as nothing more than a gaping hole in the law.

How should a person process this messy history? Where does freedom for and from religion stand today? And what will the future of religious recognition look like in the United States? Dr. Adam Kunz, an expert on religion and the law, will examine these questions and more through the lens of theory and political practice to uncover the deep philosophical problems of religion in a liberal democracy.

This presentation is the first of many in a series that will be sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Humanists. The series, which will run throughout 2024 and spring 2025, will explore the intersection of law, religion, and humanist thought. The offerings will include a book release by Dr. Kunz in the summer of 2024, debates and discussions among religious believers and secularists, expert panels on religious expression, tolerance, and civil discourse, and activities for community involvement. Through these events, we hope to engage the broader Chippewa Valley community on a topic of great national importance.

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