Skip to comments.Separation of Church and State: Establishment Clause and Muddled Thinking
Posted on 12/12/2004 11:50:43 PM PST by cfhBAMA
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black first enshrined the phrase separation of Church and State into law in Everson vs. the Board of Education, 1947. Black, who had been an anti-Catholic KKK member and a Democratic senator, was worried that the Catholic Church might attempt a coup in America through Catholic school indoctrination.
In Everson vs. Boe, Justice Black decided that it was unconstitutional for New Jersey residents to pay taxes to help support and maintain schools which are dedicated to, and which regularly teach, the Catholic Faith. In the opinion section of the decision, Justice Black wrote, The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. This was partially correct--the First Amendment refers only to the federal government. Black went on, however, to claim that it meant that neither state nor federal government was allowed to have anything whatsoever to do with any religion. In this, he was wrong. Justice Black did not consider the historical framework of the Bill of Rights; he took a phrase out of context and twisted its meaning to suit his decision.
The majority of men and women who first settled this country were escaping religious and secular tyranny. Europe had been racked by centuries of wars with roots in both politics and religion. Since King Henry VIII founded the Church of England, the native country of most colonial settlers had been poisoned by religious and political infighting. The Anglican Church was Englands official, state-sanctioned religion; the king was head of the church as well as head of state. Those who didnt attend the state church were taxed, and suffered under various restrictions in business and politics (when not persecuted and executed) as the influence of various religions and factions waxed and waned.
With this history firmly in mind, our founders were determined that the central government should not be allowed to trample on the rights of individuals to worship as they pleased. In fact, many states had official religions at the time, such as Virginia and Massachusetts. The former colonists saw central government as a necessary evil, and generally restricted its power to regulating commerce between the states and dealing with foreign powers. The Bill of Rights is a list of limitations on the powers of the central government over the states and individuals, not limitations on individual rights. It assumes that all people have rights independent of the existence and sanction of the state.
Why was it so important to articulate a Bill of Rights? Why was it considered necessary to state in the Declaration of Independence that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights? The answer is simple: to further limit the power of government. Rights granted by the state can be removed by the state, but rights that exist independently of the state cannot be taken away. More important, that was what the founding fathers truly believed. They werent being humorous, and they werent pandering to their constituencies. Their frequent references to God and a Creator in the seminal documents of our nations birth is evidence of their honest belief in them. They avoided any references to specific religions so that no one faith could claim any legal primacy. Most of the founders were probably Deists, a philosophical, free thought form of religion not bound by doctrine and dogma, but generally in line with Christian moral principles. The idea of a government that placed restrictions on the public worship of its citizens would have been equally abhorrent to them as a government that forced its citizens to worship a specific faith. Yet todays liberals do wish to place such restrictions.
The First Amendment begins: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Liberals would like to drop the latter part of that injunction and interpret the first part as, the government may show no respect towards any religion whatsoever. That sort of twisting is rarely seen outside of pretzel shops. In fact, our forefathers had a deep respect for and tolerance of various religions. Its no accident that they chose Philadelphia as the first capital of the United States. William Penn conceived the city as a place where all people of all faiths could live in peace, including Catholics, Protestants, Mennonites, and Huguenots. (Penn, a Quaker, even respected the personal and religious rights of the local Indians.) Anyone with a basic knowledge of history and the English language can clearly see that the First Amendment was meant to prevent Congress from making a law to establish a state religion for America, or interfering with any citizens right to worship--or not--as he pleased.
Liberals have been using this mythical wall of separation to attack mainstream religion--specifically in its various Christian incarnations--for over fifty years. In one school in California (where else?) it is now considered unconstitutional to teach students about the Declaration of Independence, George Washingtons journal, John Adams diary, Samuel Adams The Rights of the Colonists, and William Penns The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania. Why? Because they all mention God. The Boy Scouts of America were barred from having anything to do with the U.S. military, because their oath says, On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country. What specific religion is God, I wonder? How does the mere mention of a generic deity--which no one is forced to worship--establish a religion?
In recent years, liberals have claimed it is unconstitutional to mention God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Art with positive religious themes has been banned from a public library, while art that denigrated Christianity and befouls its symbols is celebrated. Theyve told us it is unconstitutional to celebrate Christmas in public by singing carols (including playing a purely instrumental version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town), putting a Nativity set in a public square or in a public school (although menorahs are welcome), or even wishing others a Merry Christmas (while a hearty Happy Kwanzaa is appreciated). Liberals dont seem to care that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas and 87% agree that Nativity scenes should be allowed on public property--theyd still claim it violates the separation of church and state. In which of these instances, however, did Congress make a law establishing a national religion?
The standard liberal response to anyone who dares question the existence of the Great Wall of Separation is to ask whether public worship of extreme religions should be allowed, including those which include public displays of drunkenness, nudity, sex, loud late-night ceremonies, and possibly animal or even human sacrifice. The difference is that those celebrations, as fun as they might be, break civil and/or criminal laws. As such, that sort of thing is strictly limited to post-game riots by sports fans.
Kicking Christ out of Christmas seems like banning American flags from the Fourth of July or green beer from St. Patricks Day, doesnt it? Theres no federal law saying that you MUST celebrate it, and there should be no federal law saying you CANNOT celebrate it. That is the intent of the First Amendment.
About the Writer: Joe Mariani is a computer consultant and freelance writer who lives in Pennsylvania. His website is available at: http://guardian.blogdrive.com.
Yes most states had state sponsored religions, and all of them got rid of them by the early 1800's. Even considering that, however, the 14th amendment has incorporated the bill of rights and made it applicable to the states.
Also alot of state consitution's were even stricter than the federal consitution about the state and religion, on paper. However when 80% of a state think the same way it is very easy to run roughshod over the other 20%. That is what happened to the catholics when they started to immigrate over here in large numbers during the mid-1800s. When catholics sued the public schools about the use of the KJV of the bible judges in many parts of the US ruled it was alright to use the KJV of the bible AND THAT IT DIDN'T PROMOTE ONE RELIGION OVER ANOTHER.
However anyone with a lick of common sense realizes that it certainly promotes a specific denomination over another. But there was a concertated effort by many in power to try and convert catholics to protestanism. The catholics weren't going for it so they opened their own schools.
Now you have a country that is 76% christian(from the most recent survery I saw) compared to 95% christian at the turn of the century. The best way for the government to be is neutral to religion, neither promoting it nor hindering it.
I would think that if the Founding Fathers had wanted the First Amendment to mean this, the First Amendment would have been written this way:
"Neither Congress, nor any other branch of the Federal government, shall have anything whatsoever to do with any religion".
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black first enshrined the phrase separation of Church and State into law in Everson vs. the Board of Education, 1947.
Do you know what decision that was or have a reference to it? I have a vague recollection of a decision that referenced that, but I can't remember if it was at the state rfederal level. I do remember that the way it was applied was to stop catholics from using their bible and keeping the KJV in the schools. It was really an amazing piece of convuluted logic.
We need to take back our courts and put in Judges that apply the law as written not their interpretations. Judges should not have a agenda nor a bias.
The author is incorrect in his interpretation, as many are..
Too many take the word "establishment" to be interpreted as a verb.. i.e., to "create" a church..
Judge Black interpreted the word establishment as a NOUN.. an organization, group, or entity..
Congress shall make no law regarding "religion".. period..
The single most disagreeable point was the suggestion most
of the founders were "probably Deists".Perhaps I am just not
schooled at such -but The claim seems cotrary to what I've
read of Franklin --and Jefferson.For their writings suggest
Deism as rare and unconventional as atheism. And M.E.Bradfords' work suggests most were active members of their local church.Then there is the centric problem of
confusing what is passed off as Deism today and confusing
the modern corruption of terms with what was understood as
Deism in the founding era 1730-1805.Most of the Founders were schooled in Calvanism.
"Probably ,at the time time of the adoption of the Constitution,and of th eamendment to it,now under consideration(the first),the general if not the universal
sentiment in AMerica was, that Christianity ought to recieve
encouragement from the State,. . ." Joseph Story -"A Familiar Exposition on the Constitution of the United States."from the 1859 original.Corresponds to what was
published in Senate Judiciary Committee Report,1853,second
session, and Corresponding HOuse report following session.
It is my understanding,though I may be wrong, that most
Catholics use the KJV,and it is the most widely used English translation of the Bible?There are serious questions ,yet unresolved concerning the 14th amendment and the wisdom of allowing it to subvert the Bill of Rights and the intent of the men who drafted and ratified the US
I believe the case referred to was Reynolds v. the United
States,1878 , where the Jefferson letter to the Danbury
Baptists was first introduced.The case then was concerning
Mormon polygamy.And serious questions remain about the
efficacy of using Jeffersons' letter (even the whole-as
done in 1878-as opposed to the mere fragment used by the
charismatic Ku Klux Klansman Hugo Black, 1947)
Article 52 [Religion]
(1) Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.
(2) In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.
That was the exact meaning of "an establishment of religion" in 1788.
What may Congress not legislate about?
What kind of establishment?
What is an example?
The establishment of Congregationalism as the state religion of Connecticut.
So, Congress shall make no law which would have anything to do with Connecticut's decision to establish Congregationalism.
What is this crap? Justice Black didn't "decide" that. That was Everson's contention. And FYI, Everson lost.
Justice Black did not consider the historical framework of the Bill of Rights;
But he did. In fact, almost half his opinion deals with the historical framework.
Kinda hard to care what else the author has to say after he begins with such whoppers.
Hugo Black...the ACLU's first "sock puppet"
They have always had a bias. Just read the history of church-state issues during the mid to late 1800s. Protestant judges did every thing they could to rule against catholics, that is why we have so many private catholic schools.
That is why I believe that the government's official stance should be neutral. Of course then the group that no longer has the special status gets mad. Like in Utah were a judge ruled that since the government let a menorrah and a nativity scene be placed in front of a local government building they had to let the local atheist group put up their sign. It simply said happy winter solstice with their logo underneath. It was promptly defaced by, i suppose, someone who thought of themselves as a good christian.
It is interesting that you mention Franklin and Jefferson. I think the evidence on those two is overwhelming that they were deist (http://www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm). However they both still were members of churches, and presumably attended them.
However many of the founding fathers were some denomination of christianity. I think it is amazing what the founders did. Our nation was the first civilization in the history of the world that, at least on paper, allowed anyone to worship how they wanted. The first time that the state was seperate from the church. Of course after the great revival in the early 1800s I think everything else lost favor especially deism.
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
Massachusetts had an established church until 1833.
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