Posts Tagged ‘Establishment Clause’

America’s Descent into Chaos and Depravity, Part 3

July 7, 2015
Revelation 18 and the fate of America

Revelation 18 and the fate of America

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!”

Revelation 18:2b

Prayer Out of the Schools.  The United States Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren issued three crushing decisions on prayer in public schools.  The first was in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) and two in 1963 (Murray v. Curlett and Abington Township School District v. Schempp). The decision to ban prayer and Bible reading from public schools was made as a result of the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the First Amendment and the “wall of separation between church and state” dogma.

In the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case the issue centered on a prayer drafted by the New York State Board of Regents.  It simply read: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”  Although it was not a biblical prayer or denominational prayer, the parents of ten students took offense and sued the Hyde Park, New York school district claiming the prayer violated the U.S. Constitution.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.  The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.

George Washington, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

The Board of Regents believed that such a non-descript, non-denominational prayer would get the students off to a good daily start and encourage good moral character, promote spiritual guidance and help overcome juvenile delinquency.  Since students were not required to participate and participation in the prayer was completely optional, the educators felt they were on solid constitutional ground.

The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 3, 1962.  Nearly three months later the Court rendered a majority 6-1 decision on June 25.  Associate Justice Hugo Black rendered the opinion for the Court.

In part, Justice Black wrote for the majority: “This daily procedure was adopted on the recommendation of the State Board of Regents . . . they recommended and published as a part of their ‘Statement on Moral and Spiritual Training in the Schools,’ saying: ‘We believe that this Statement will be subscribed to by all men and women of good will, and we call upon all of them to aid in giving life to our program.’

“. . . We think that by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. . . .”

Without citing any references, Justice Black then went on to enlist Thomas Jefferson to support his contention and conclusions about the “religious nature of prayer”.

Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 54:2

In the paragraph containing the Court’s decision, Black wrote: “The petitioners contend among other things that the state laws requiring or permitting use of the Regents’ prayer must be struck down as a violation of the Establishment Clause because that prayer was composed by governmental officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs. For this reason, petitioners argue, the State’s use of the Regents’ prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State. We agree with that contention since we think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion

must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.”

Associate Justice Potter Stewart was the lone dissenting vote.  Justices Felix Frankfurter and Byron White took no part in the decision.

In part, Justice Stewart summarized the case as he saw it.  “A local school board in New York has provided that those pupils who wish to do so may join in a brief prayer at the beginning of each school day, acknowledging their dependence upon God and asking His blessing upon them and upon their parents, their teachers, and their country. The Court today decides that in permitting this brief nondenominational prayer the school board has violated the Constitution of the United States.  I think this decision is wrong.”

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (1915-1985)

Justice Stewart was appointed to the Court on October 14, 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower and confirmed by the U.S. Senate the following May in a 70-17 vote.  All dissenters were Democrats.  Stewart was a centrist Republican who believed that the Warren Court misinterpreted the First Amendment “Establishment Clause” and exceeded the intentions of the Framers of the Constitution.

“The Court does not hold, nor could it,” Stewart wrote, “that New York has interfered with the free exercise of anybody’s religion. For the state courts have made clear that those who object to reciting the prayer must be entirely free of any compulsion to do so, including any ‘embarrassments and pressures.’. . .  the Court says that in permitting school children to say this simple prayer, the New York authorities have established ‘an official religion.’

“With all respect,” he continued, “I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation. . . .”

Religion is necessary to correct the effects of learning.  Without religion I believe learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind . . .

Dr. Benjamin Rush, Letter to John Armstrong on March 19, 1783

Justice Stewart went on to point out the inconsistencies of the nation’s religious observances.  “At the opening of each day’s Session of this Court we stand, while one of our officials invokes the protection of God.  Since the days of John Marshall our Crier has said, ‘God save the United States and this Honorable Court.’  Both the Senate and the House of Representatives open their daily Sessions with prayer.  Each of our Presidents, from George Washington to John F. Kennedy [then in office], has upon assuming his Office asked the protection and help of God. . . .

“In 1954 Congress added a phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag so that it now contains the words ‘one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’  In 1952 Congress enacted legislation calling upon the President each year to proclaim a National Day of Prayer.  Since 1865 the words ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ have been impressed on our coins.”

Stewart wrote that he could list countless other examples but that his position could be summed by the fact that, “It was . . . this Court just ten years ago in a single sentence: ‘We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being’” [see Zorach v. Clauson].

“I do not believe that this Court,” Stewart concluded, “or the Congress, or the President has by the actions and practices I have mentioned established an ‘official religion’ in violation of the Constitution. And I do not believe the State of New York has done so in this case.”

Chief Justice Earl Warren (1891-1974)

Warren was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1953 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Warren, although a Republican, was philosophically a centrist to liberal in his judicial renderings.  He served on the Court until 1969.

A year later, on the same day, the same Court (with Arthur J. Goldberg, a Democrat replacing Frankfurter) decided two other contentious cases that were argued before the Court at the same time concerning school prayer— Murray v. Curlett and Abington Township School District v. Schempp.

In the Murray v. Curlett case, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a radical militant atheist, who was despised and hated by many Christians and fellow atheists, brought suit against the Baltimore, Maryland school board.  Like the previous complaint in New York, O’Hair sued because she claimed that her son William’s school violated the First Amendment by having students recite the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13).  She also came against the school board’s approval of the daily reading from the Bible.

14th Amendment

Section 1 [of 5]. . . . No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Passed by Congress on June 13, 1866

Before reaching the Supreme Court, a local Maryland judge, J. Gilbert Pendergast, dismissed O’Hair’s petition, saying, “It is abundantly clear that petitioners’ real objective is to drive every concept of religion out of the public school system.”  The Maryland Court of Appeals had a similar viewpoint and concluded that, “Neither the First nor the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to stifle all rapport between religion and government.”

In the Abington Township School District [of Pennsylvania] v. Schempp the complaint was similar—that the voluntary student participation in morning prayer and listening to a teacher recitation of ten verses of the Bible was unconstitutional.

In its majority 8-1 decision in both cases, with Justice Stewart once again being the lone dissenter, the Court once again cited its position as in Engel v. Vitale but with many more pages of nebulous Founder legal positions and case law.  The bottom line was that, again Thomas Jefferson’s non-binding, non-Constitutional statement on the “wall of separation between church and state” was held up as the justification for their affirmative decision for the plaintiffs.  When attorney for the petitioners, Leonard Kerpelman, used Jefferson’s statement in his presentation and implied it was in the Constitution, Justice Stewart quickly interrupted and asked him where it occurred.  A silence fell over the Court as Kerpelman was stumped for an answer.

In writing his dissent, Justice Stewart stated, in part:

I think the records in the two cases before us are so fundamentally deficient as to make impossible an informed or responsible determination of the constitutional issues presented. Specifically, I cannot agree that on these records we can say that the Establishment Clause has necessarily been violated. But I think there exist serious questions under both that provision and the Free Exercise Clause – insofar as each is imbedded in the Fourteenth Amendment – which require the remand of these cases for the taking of additional evidence.

The First Amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” It is, I think, a fallacious oversimplification to regard these two provisions as establishing a single constitutional standard of “separation of church and state,” which can be mechanically applied in every case to delineate the required boundaries between government and religion. We err in the first place if we do not recognize, as a matter of history and as a matter of the imperatives of our free society, that religion and government must necessarily interact in countless ways. Secondly, the fact is that while in many contexts the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause fully complement each other, there are areas in which a doctrinaire reading of the Establishment Clause leads to irreconcilable conflict with the Free Exercise Clause.

Religion is the only solid basis of good morals: therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man towards God.

Gouverneur Morris, Signer, U.S. Constitution

Interestingly and sadly, not one Christian group, church or organization chose to file a brief in either case on behalf of prayer or Bible reading in the public schools.  However, it is important to note that these joint decisions by the Supreme Court, DID NOT, as widely believed, remove prayer or Bible reading from the public schools.  The Court only concluded that “government-sponsored” prayer and Bible reading were a violation of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment.  Students in public schools are still free to pray or read the Bible on their own or to conduct or participate in prayer or Bible study groups.

In essence, what the Warren Supreme Court decided to do was to deliberately misinterpret and re-write the First Amendment.  They changed the intent of the “Establishment Clause” of the Founders and replaced it with at statement out-of-context made by Jefferson in a letter.  North Carolina’s senator at the time, Sam Ervin (1896-1985), quipped, “I should like to ask whether we would be far wrong in saying that in this decision the Supreme Court has held that God is unconstitutional and for that reason the public school must be segregated against Him?”

Perhaps ironically, O’Hair’s son, William J. Murray, became a Christian and a Baptist minister and is chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition and author of My Life Without God.

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America’s Descent into Chaos and Depravity, Part 2

July 3, 2015
Revelation 18 and the fate of America

Revelation 18 and the fate of America

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!”

Revelation 18:2b

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 . . .

U.S. Constitution

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.”

Wall of Separation: Jefferson’s Intention or Judicial Fabrication, p. 53

(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.)