Justice Hugo L. BlackJustice Hugo L. Black, (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice

Justice Hugo L. Black Quote

“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

Justice Hugo L. BlackJustice Hugo L. Black
~ Justice Hugo L. Black

Ratings and Comments


Very timely, with the recent political activity of the Evangelical Christians.

Logan, Memphis, TN

A despotic statement showing complete contempt for American judicial jurisprudence and constitutional principle or complete ignorance of Supreme Court precedence. The First Amendment does no such thing. The only reason a Supreme Court Justice can make such a statement is because of the ignorance of the people.

M Gregoroff, Penticton bc Canada

Someone should tell this to Bush and the religious leaders.

Dick, Fort Worth

Separation of Church and State is one of the most important legacies we enjoy. Those who oppose it would scream were they forced to live under any religion except their own but have no hesitation to force others to live under theirs. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

David L. Rosenthal, Hollywood, Florida

The concept of separation of Church and State has become promoted and distorted to the point that the uninformed believe that the First Amendment proscribes spiritual expressions of thanks and devotion to God in public forums, even though it clearly has nothing to do with that. Every Congress since the first, including the current one, has begun each of its sessions with prayer to God. Each of the 50 state constitutions acknowledges God. God is the Creator. Religion is the invention of men. You may separate religion from government, but you cannot separate God from public life, as there is no life outside of God.

E Archer, NYC

While it is true that the the words 'separation of church and state' do not appear in the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights helps to uphold the assertion. Thomas Jefferson originally coined the term.

  • Reply
P.M.    12/12/05
Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Notice how, mainly, the evangelically 'religious' seem to miss the point - on the basis of 'religious' belief - again. Sad but predictable - hence the quote. Dick - I think the avoidance of information functions as a barrier to the inevitable cognitive dissonance one would experience were it to enter through any rational crack in the armor - LOL.

Neal, Washington, DC

Thomas Jefferson took joy in the fact he kept his administration neutral on the matter of religion, and left that up the states. When the 14the Amend. was passed, and incorporated the Bill of Rights against the states, it became obvious that NO government could sanction any form of religion into its curricula. Hugo Black never once said faith had no place in the public sphere, he merely said GOVERNMENT could not recognize it. What's the harm in that? You would think Black had outlawed faith in America or something. Obviously, that is not the case, and never will be.

Neal, Washington, DC

Forgot to vote on the quote. I think it's terrific, but it must be read in context.

John Anderson, Tacoma

Separation of Church and state originally meant the state must not interfere in matters of "the church" -neither to promote nor to hinder. In Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association where the phrase was coined this is quite clearly the interpretation. Jefferson was writing to assure the Association that the state would not interfere with their beliefs, not to make a case for their beliefs to be excluded from the public forum. The whole purpose of the Constitution is to define the limits of the power granted the federal government, not to define the limits of the rights of religious groups, firearms owners, or other private citizens. Indeed, it is obvious from the Declaration of Independence that, as these rights spring not from government, society, or any other human source, but from the Creator, that no human source is authorized to retract or limit the right beyond what the Creator has allowed. It is unfortunate that Jefferson's phrase has been turned on its head and used as a basis for excluding the church from participating in any affairs of state when its only original intent was to preclude interference by the (federal) state in affairs of the church.

Ryan, El Paso, Texas

Thomas Jefferson did NOT originally coin the term, the 14th Amendment (which was never constitutionally ratified) did NOT "incorporate" the Bill of Rights against the states as evidenced by the framers of that very amendment's notes and debates, Hugo Black was constitutionally ignorant and tried to implement KKK principles into constitutional law, and John Anderson of Tacoma is completely correct in what he said... DO YOUR HOMEWORK PEOPLE. Oh, by the way... I am not religious at all, so don't dismiss what I said based on a preconceived notion that I am.

Ryan, El Paso, Texas

Vote on the Quote.

  • Reply
Anonymous    4/24/09

All of my research shows that, in fact, Mr. Anderson is correct, and I am very religious - Christian, in fact. The term was coined to keep government out of the churches business. The amendment was framed to ensure that the governnemt didn't outlaw ANY religious expression of the people...as they are currently doing. This nation was founded on Christian principles. You don't have to like it, but you can't deny it.

Robert, Los Angeles

While Thomas Jefferson may have coined the term of "a hedge between church and state," he had nothing to do with either authoring or ratifying the First Amendment. That makes what he said about it as fundamental to the Amendment as anyone else who didn't bring it to pass. The letter everyone is so awestruck over was written 10 years after the fact when he was president and was in response as to why he didn't issue presidential declarations of Thanksgiving and fasting like presidents Washington and Adams had done. If you want to know who actually did take part in authoring the First Amendment, try looking up James Madison. Before we saw the First Amendment as it was written today, he had proposed it to be written thusly, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any NATIONAL RELIGION be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed." It was James Madison who said that it was his intention to provide "that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience." If he had proposed to separate completely church from State, the First Amendment would NOT have passed or been ratified since there were States with established religions that would not give up their established religions such as: Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

O. Delusional Liberal

Most definitely.


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