"Wall of Separation" Letter Coined

On this date in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson coined the famous phrase describing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as erecting "a wall of separation between church and state." He used the phrase in his famous letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, who had asked him to explain the meaning of the First Amendment's phrase, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

“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 prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

—President Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, Jan. 1, 1802

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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