"I contemplate with sovereign 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 & State." Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Church, 1802.
These words cause great consternation between those of faith and those who see the intrusion of religion into secular government as a stepping stone to tyranny. It is used in both denying and supporting the delicate balance the Constitution makes between spiritual authority of theology and secular governance of law.
Kerry Jech's (July 29, 2012) letter in the Marshalltown Times-Republican is a keen example of the general misunderstanding of the concept, the metaphor and purpose of the very first "right" provided in the First Amendment.
Mr. Jech states, "In truth, many Bible verses were used in writing the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and most of the state constitutions." Yet there is no proof as to the accuracy of this statement. In fact, quite the opposite.
Not long ago, a student asked me about God and the Constitution, stating that her minister said there are over 50 biblical quotes found in this nation's founding documents. After searching the Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, we found none.
In a broader search to answer the question "Was America founded as a Christian nation?" it was found that many of the objective proofs provided by supporters of the question were taken out of context and did not support the premise.
As an example, Mr. Jech points to Isaiah 33:22 as providing the "concept for our judicial, executive and legislative branches of government." Isaiah does not mention the formation of government. If any biblical verse could be used as a basis of American law, it is more evident to use Matt: 22:15-21 and Jesus' own words of separation of church and state, "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."
Jefferson's metaphor of a "wall" may not be the best. Article VI, clause 3 of the Constitution and the First Amendment are a very sensitive balance. If those of faith seek to emphasis their theocratic rights over secular law, it would destroy the very law they rely upon to protect their theologies.