separation of church and state

Cultural Dictionary

separation of church and state definition


The principle that government must maintain an attitude of neutrality toward religion. Many view separation of church and state as required by the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only allows citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice, but also prevents the government from officially recognizing or favoring any religion.

Note: The relationship between church and state has been extremely controversial since the first settlers arrived in America to escape religious persecution in Europe, and many cases involving the issue have reached the Supreme Court.
Note: Interpretation of the principle has been ambiguous: for instance, the Supreme Court has recently upheld laws prohibiting prayer in the schools but has permitted the construction of Nativity scenes on government property. (See also established church and freedom of religion.)
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: separation negative
Next Definition: separation of powers
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for separation of church and state
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing separation of church and state
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature