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Separation of church and state

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.)


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  • Separation-of-powers

    noun 1. the principle or system of vesting in separate branches the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of a government. noun the doctrine that the individual branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) have separate and unique powers the others cannot impinge upon Word Origin developed by French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu separation of powers definition […]

  • Separation-of-variables

    noun, Mathematics. 1. a grouping of the terms of an ordinary differential equation so that associated with each differential is a factor consisting entirely of functions of the independent variable appearing in the differential. 2. a process of finding a particular solution of a partial differential equation in the form of a product of factors […]

  • Separatism

    noun 1. a person who separates, withdraws, or secedes, as from an established church. 2. an advocate of separation, especially ecclesiastical or political separation. adjective 3. of, relating to, or designating separatism or separatists: separatist forces; separatist tendencies. noun 1. a person who advocates or practises secession from an organization or group (as modifier): a […]

  • Separative

    adjective 1. tending to separate. 2. causing separation. adjective 1. tending to separate or causing separation

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