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The Constitution, together with the Bill of Rights, created a nonsectarian government, where no religion should be held superior. This is different from a secular government, where religion is excluded from public life. This fact lies in stark contrast with the French constitution adopted a year later in 1789.

Perhaps the most misunderstood phrase, "wall of separation between church and state," is in neither the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, but in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. He said: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, [the people, in the First Amendment,] 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." Together with his 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: "that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities" clearly shows the famous phrase is meant to protect religious expression, not remove it from the public square.

Religion has played a fundamental role in the formation of our system of government, as well as the Amendments that followed. I hope this knowledge furthers tolerance of beliefs and opinions derived from religious conviction.

Capt. Richard S. OlcottVictory Base, Iraq

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