It's a plain and evident fact that the United States' founding fathers were deeply concerned about this country becoming a religious theocracy. That's why we have a godless constitution—the title of a book I'm reading.
So given what I know about how strongly George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other leaders of their era felt about keeping religion out of government, my ears perked up when I heard mention of a PBS pseudo-documentary, "Wall of Separation," that suggests the wall may really have been an open door.
The PBS web site says:
But is this conventional wisdom of "secularized" government exactly what our Founding Fathers intended when they established our nation and wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Some scholars think so. Other scholars claim that a contextualization of Colonial American culture and politics reveals a radically different definition of religious establishment and church/state relations than we have today. Some even claim it is the exact opposite of what the Founders intended. This is an ongoing debate that has continued to polarize Americans to this day.
This is the same sort of B.S. attitude that allows for the claim that "some say" evolution is true while "others say" intelligent design is how the world came to be, conveniently ignoring the fact that "some" includes the consensus of the scientific community, while "others" is limited to a few religious true believers.
Similarly, I strongly suspect that "Wall of Separation" isn't going to accurately reflect the views of most historians. As Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State points out, the program has its roots in the religious right.
And likely is tied into Christian Reconstructionism. This is a thoroughly creepy attempt to have American society dominated by Christian beliefs, legally and otherwise. I'm not sure why "reconstruct" is in their name. Probably they're trying to reconstruct the Middle Ages in the United States, when the Church controlled almost every aspect of life.
If he were alive today, Thomas Jefferson would be urging us to resist this theocratic movement with every bit of our secular muscle. Here's some Jefferson quotes from "The Godless Constitution."
"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity," Jefferson wrote, "have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned." What, he asked, has been the effect of this slaughter? "To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites," he answered, "to support roguery and error all over the earth."
…"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
…All priests, Jefferson claimed, "dread the advancement of science as witches do the approach of daylight." They preach "bigotry and fanaticism" at the expense of human reason. "The mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus" spread "impenetrable darkness…and there they will skulk." A "band of dupes and impostors," they sponsor "ignorance, absurdity, untruth, charlatanism and falsifications."