Religious Liberty: An American Experiment

First Amendment Principles and Jefferson’s “Wall”

Clock One 50-minute class period

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of how the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment changed in light of the Fourteenth Amendment. They will also analyze Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, evaluate the Supreme Court’s application of Jefferson’s metaphor about the wall of separation between church and state, and assess how much weight should be given to Jefferson’s letter in determining the constitutionality of state action with respect to religion.

Founding Principles

Freedom of Religion image

Freedom of Religion

The freedom to exercise one's own religious beliefs without interference from the government is essential to the existence of a free society.

Inalienable / Natural Rights image

Inalienable / Natural Rights

Freedoms which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.

Liberty image


Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

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