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The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders Paperback – May 3, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080707747X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807077474
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.4 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

 “A useful little volume . . . The separation of church and state is important, this collection suggests, because that’s how the country was conceived.”—Jeff Sharlet, The Revealer
 
“This brief primer includes some of the most eloquent and cogent arguments by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, [and] Patrick Henry that will help a contemporary audience understand the original reasoning behind the separation of church and state.”—Catholic Opinion
 
“No longer will the earnest citizen need to rely on second- and third-hand versions of how separation of church and state came about—or what it really means. The Separation of Church and State is an invaluable handbook of primary sources for the perplexed—and the concerned—in today’s whirlpool of contrary opinions and strident voices.”—Edwin S. Gaustad, author of Proclaim Liberty throughout All the Land: A History of Church and State in America


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Forrest Church (1948–2009) served for almost three decades as senior minister and was minister of public theology at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City. He wrote or edited twenty-five books, including Love & Death.

More About the Author

FORREST CHURCH is currently serving his thirtieth year as minister of All Souls Church in Manhattan. He earned his doctorate in church history at Harvard and has written or edited twenty-two books, including The Separation of Church and State. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Michael Heath VINE VOICE on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Church serves more as editor of source materials in the time of our nation's founding; the bulk of this book is dedicated to presenting the founding fathers' and framers' opinions regarding the eventually established American ideal regarding religious freedom, with very little context added by Mr. Church. His short analyses though are spot-on.

Mr. Church's book presents, in their own words, essays and letters from: Patrick Henry (an enemy of religious freedom and some of our founding ideals), Sam Adams, George Mason, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and others. It also includes the Treaty of Tripoli initiated by Washington's administration but ratified by Adams after being unanimously ratified by the 5th Congress which expressly defines the U.S. as "not being in any sense founded on the Christian religion". The preponderance of evidence collected in this book strongly favors the fact that our framers (not neccesarily our founders like Henry), were enlightened gentleman suspicious of organized religion, but respectful of humanaity's need for faith, and that a relationship between religion and government led to corruption of religion and the derprivation of freedom to citizens and thus the need to separate the two institutions as much as possible.

Being an avid student on this topic, I can state unequivocably that Mr. Church's assessment is accurate relative to the framers' historic desire to secularize government. Mr. Church even presents Madison's post-Presidential memorandum on his admitted hypocrisy regarding his re-establishing national days of prayer during the build-up to the War of 1812 and the fear that elicited.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on July 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forrest Church is a Unitarian minister and historian who believes strongly in the American tradition of church state separation. He wrote this book to include actual words taken from several influential individuals from the early days of the United States, illustrating how and why each of these people felt so strongly about the importance of preventing intermingling of church and state.

Many important individuals are mentioned in this book with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison receiving the bulk of the coverage. The reason these two are singled out should be obvious: They were two of the most influential of all in the writing of the U.S. Constitution and their firm stance in favor of religious liberty was unyielding. Of the two men, Jefferson was the most insistent that church and state remain as far apart as possible and it isn't surprising that three of the book's chapters are dedicated to him. Jefferson wrote many letters about this topic and among the nation's many founders, he was the most instrumental at keeping religion and government from joining forces.

Most of the names mentioned in this book are well- known from American history but there are a few surprises. I did not know the names Richard Price or John Caleb until I read this book but I can understand why each was included. Both of these men were high- ranking and very influential religious ministers and they were both convinced that church and state should never be allowed to mix. This is similar to the sentiments expressed by others in this book. But the difference is that these two individuals were ministers and their feelings add credibility to the church/state separation issue.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Wildness VINE VOICE on October 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forrest Church, a Unitarian minister and historian, has pulled together a nice sampling of letters, documents, and legal briefs from the early days of the United States of America (both pre- and post-Constitution) that lays out how most of our founding generations felt about the separation of church and state--they were very much opposed to religion mixing with government and politics. Mr. Church has presented the material in chronological order, and he introduces each piece to highlight its contextual setting and importance. These are more than just the familiar quotes, these pieces in their whole so that the complete context of what is said is there for the examination.

Included are number chapters on some the most recognizable figures important in the separation of church and state debate, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, Patrick Henry and James Madison; but, what makes this book more useful are the lesser known public and religious leaders included: Isaac Backus, Caleb Wallace, and George Mason among others.

The separation of church and state was a hot topic open for much debate in our founding days. Most of the original colonies prior to and into the Revolution, had laws on the books that sanctioned a state religion, usually the Anglican Church, and collected taxes that paid the clergy. As King George's yoke was being thrown off during the Revolution, our fledgling country debated itself on the meaning of freedom and liberty, and religious freedom was of utmost importance for our founders.
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