church and state

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Church and State is defined as a legal doctrine that provides for the separation of the State from religion in the United States. The doctrine is derived from the landmark US Supreme Court case Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1. In the majority opinion of the Court, Justice Black, while relying upon the words of Thomas Jefferson in Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, opined that “the clause against establishment of religion [Establishment Clause] by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State” and that the wall must be kept high and impregnable.” Justice Black went on further to note that the Establishment Clause means that “neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against their will or force them to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance.”

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]