Excerpted from Chapter 5 of Revelation 18 and the fate of America.]
. . . and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”
Separation of Church and State. After the dual victories against the Nazis of Germany in Europe and in the Pacific against the Imperialist Japanese, the people of America were euphoric. Despite tremendous losses of life and great national hardship, Americans believed that nothing was beyond them; that there was great redemption ahead. Wartime industry re-tooled for domestic production and a house building boom ensued as returning soldiers sought to return to civilian life.
America was definitely on the upswing—emotionally, economically and spiritually. Then the big lie was foisted on the citizenry of the United States that destroyed the Judeo-Christian foundation of the country. Prior to the big lie America had frequently had challenges to its Constitution, its interpretation and espoused way of life for the citizens of America. But nothing destroyed the biblical foundation and fabric of faith more than the big lie of the “Wall of Separation of Church and State.”
. . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
George Washington, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796
Although there had been previous attempts to weaken the role of the Christian church in the lives of Americans, the door was opened wide to usher in a full assault on February 10, 1947 (less than two years after the end of WWII). On that date the U.S. Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision in the case of Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing (New Jersey) made what would become a “landmark” decision relative to the issue of the “Separation of Church and State”. The case originated when a New Jersey taxpayer, Arch Everson, sued the Board of Education of Ewing Township because he claimed that their reimbursement of the costs of bus transportation to parents of students going to religious schools was a violation of the “Establishment” clause of the First Amendment.
Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
Representing the majority decision, Justice Black reviewed the essence of the case. “A New Jersey statute authorizes its local school districts to make rules and contracts for the transportation of children to and from schools. . . . this statute, authorized reimbursement to parents of money expended by them for the bus transportation of their children on regular busses operated by the public transportation system. Part of this money was for the payment of transportation of some children in the community to Catholic parochial schools.”
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black (1886-1971)
Justice Black was a lawyer and a Democratic U.S. Senator from Alabama who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1937.
“The appellant,” Black continued, “in his capacity as a district taxpayer, filed suit in a state court challenging the right of the Board to reimburse parents of parochial school students. He contended that the statute and the resolution passed pursuant to it violated both the State and the Federal Constitutions. . . .”
Justice Black pointed out that “The New Jersey statute is challenged as a ‘law respecting an establishment of religion.’
The First Amendment, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth, commands that a state “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . Whether this New Jersey law is one respecting an ‘establishment of religion’ requires an understanding of the meaning of that language, particularly with respect to the imposition of taxes.”
In an effort to explain the majority decision Justice Black wrote several paragraphs that reviewed the religious history of the early settlers and his understanding of the intent of the Founders in authoring the First Amendment.
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. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.”
Justice Hugo Black, February 10, 1947, Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing
“A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government-favored churches,” Black wrote.
“. . . The imposition of taxes”, Justice Black penned, “to pay ministers’ salaries and to build and maintain churches and church property aroused their indignation. It was these feelings which found expression in the First Amendment.” In the same paragraph Black referred to the colonists of Virginia and their role in understanding the importance of religious freedom. Presumably referring to The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, Black wrote that “The people there, as elsewhere, reached the conviction that individual religious liberty could be achieved best under a government which was stripped of all power to tax, to support, or otherwise to assist any or all religions, or to interfere with the beliefs of any religious individual or group.”
Referring to earlier Supreme Court history in relation to the First Amendment, Justice Black continued. “This Court has previously recognized that the provisions of the First Amendment, in the drafting and adoption of which Madison and Jefferson played such leading roles, had the same objective and were intended to provide the same protection against governmental intrusion on religious liberty as the Virginia statute.”
Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist (1924-2005)
Justice Rehnquist was a conservative Republican attorney who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in January, 1972. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to become Chief Justice.
Although Justice Black and the justices that joined in the majority decision got it right by deciding that neither Ewing Township nor the State of New Jersey violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, Justice Black
concluded the decision with this sentence: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.” The five justices determined that the laws of New Jersey had not breached this “wall” between church and state. However, by referring to Jefferson’s statement on the “wall of separation between church and state” in his letter to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association, the justices forever opened a Pandora ’s Box for judicial misinterpretation and misapplication of Jefferson’s intention.
Thirty-eight years later in another landmark case before the Supreme Court, Wallace v. Jafree, 1985, the Court, using the same “wall of separation” reasoning, in a 6-3 majority decision struck down the Alabama public school’s minute of silence for personal meditation or prayer. Dissenting Associate Justice, William Rehnquist, wrote for the minority opinion, “It is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine on a mistaken understanding of Constitutional history. . . . The establishment clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly forty years. . . . There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the Framers [of the Constitution] intended to build a wall of separation. . . . The recent court decisions are in no way based on either the language or the intent of the Framers.”
If the Founding Fathers meant to insert a separation of church and state clause in the Constitution, why did they not? To the contrary, in the midst of debating the ideals of the Constitution, they passed the Northwest Ordinance on July 13, 1787 that included this maxim: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
(For a more complete review and understanding of the issue of the “wall of separation between church and state” read We the People: Birth of a Nation by this author.)