66 Ind. L.J. 773 (1990-1991)
The Politics of Toleration: The Establishment Clause and the Act of Toleration Examined

handle is hein.journals/indana66 and id is 783 raw text is: The Politics of Toleration: The Establishment Clause
and the Act of Toleration Examinedt
LAuRA ZWlCKER*
INTRODUCTION
The complete separation of church and state is one of the abiding myths
of modem American constitutional theory and thought. The insistence on
that separation has long been the source of important judicial and legislative
decisions in such areas as the role of prayer in schools,' government support
of parochial education2 and the display of religious symbols in public spaces.3
The establishment clause of the American Bill of Rights is commonly
understood to be the source of this wall of separation;4 yet, such a wall
was never intended by its framers.
The establishment clause in the American Bill of Rights (1789) and the
English Act of Toleration (1689) are often interpreted and commonly
understood as legislative efforts to promote religious liberty. On closer
examination, however, it seems that both were significant political tools
whose primary importance was in achieving political stability after the
turmoil of revolution. The political nature and utility of the Act of Toler-
ation, and m turn, of the establishment clause, is striking.5 Yet, the political
nature of these documents is even more obvious when seen in the context
of the history of toleration declarations from the Declaration of Breda
t  1991 by Laura Zwicker.
* J.D. Candidate, 1991, Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington; B.A., 1988,
Washington Umversity.
I. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985).
2. See Grand Rapids School Dist. v. Ball, 473 U.S. 373 (1985).
3. See County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 109 S. Ct. 3086 (1989).
4. U.S. CoNsT. amend. I (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion); see Everson v. Board of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 16 (1947). It was in fact Thomas
Jefferson, in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association some thirteen years after the Bill of
Rights was drafted, who first used the phrase wall of separation between church and state.
See L. Lvy, Jr-amsoN & CIViL LmERms: THE DARxm SIm 7-8 (1963).
5. William III begins his 1689 Act of Toleration by stating some ease to scrupulous
consciences in the exercise of religion may be an effectual means to unite their Majesties'
Protestant subjects in interest and affection. 8 ENGLISH MHsToRicAL DocutmNTs: 1660-1714,
at 400 (A. Browning ed. 1953) (emphasis added) [hereinafter ENGLISH HsroMiAL DocUmErrs].
In the congressional debates on the establishment clause, Delegate Carroll asserted that the
establishment clause would tend more toward conciliating the minds of the people to the
Government than almost any other amendment. 1 ANALs oF CoNG. 730 (J. Gales ed. 1834)
(emphasis added).

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