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The Importance of "Dicta"
The Power of Words to Create Public Policy


Maybe you've seen the article that should go here. Send us the link Or send us the book or journal article and we'll plagiarize it like all our other pages.

Here's what it says:

  • Secular Humanists argue that the "America's Christian History" part of the Holy Trinity decision is not "binding," but is merely "dicta."
  • "Dicta" means statements by the court which are not essential to the decision, as when the judge injects his opinion about a matter not on trial
  • The fact that America is a Christian nation is the basis for the Court's interpretation of the statute in question; it is not "dicta."
  • The Court's famous remarks in Everson more closely resemble "dicta," as they were not the basis for the decision, yet they have had far more impact in spreading the myth of "separation."


Read what great legal minds have said about the opinion in Holy Trinity as they spoke on the occasion of the death of its author, Justice David Brewer.

In a previous essay, we showed that the U.S. Supreme Court's declaration that America is a "Christian Nation" was not mere "dicta," but was the central legal support for the Court's ruling. In a future essay we will examine the significant Everson decision and show that if any idea is based on mere "dicta," it is the "separation of church and state."

Until you send us this article, readers of this page will have to be content with the following dialogue from American OnLine's "Separation of Church and State" Discussion Board.

Subject: Everson is Dicta
To: Separation of Church/State?
Date: 8/9/99

The conclusion of the Court in Holy Trinity, that America is a Christian nation, has been called "dicta." I have argued that this is legally inaccurate. (See accompanying post.)

But even if this argument (that the "Christian nation" line in Holy Trinity is dicta) could be sustained, the fact is that dicta often sets legally binding precedent. No more shining example of this can be found than in church-state jurisprudence.

Probably the most important church-state case in the 20th century is the case of Everson v. Board of Education 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

In the Everson case, the question before the court was whether parents of private school students could be reimbursed like parents of public school students. The Court held that they COULD be reimbursed. But in the course of their judgment, the majority set forth a statement about the meaning of "separation of church and state" which the minority argued should have led to Court to a contrary conclusion. That paragraph, which is clearly "dicta," has been repeatedly cited in subsequent cases to rule against Christians and in favor of Secular Humanists.

Everson is the "Holy Trinity" of Secular Humanist historical revisionism. Its language is "dicta," and its conclusions are erroneous, but it has served as the foundation of secular church-state thinking. Every criticism atheists level against my use of Holy Trinity can be leveled against the Court's use of Everson. Atheists and the Court are inconsistent, and are simply furthering their secularist agenda.

Everson marks the transition from the world of Holy Trinity to the modern secularist world, where corporate prayer and a reverent use of the Bible and the Ten Commandments are banned from schools.

It is impossible to overstate the difference between these two worlds. It is impossible to overstate the gulf between those who signed the Constitution and those who have occupied the Supreme Court since 1947.

In 1844, the Court was asked, Can the state enforce a will which creates a government-operated school which will not teach the Bible? The Supreme Court said that the very idea of a school which will not teach the Bible is contrary to the legal foundations of this Christian nation, but since the government guaranteed that the Bible would be taught in the school, the will was approved. (Vidal v. Girard's Executors, 1844)

The Vidal Court, as it talks about Christianity and the Bible, sounds more like David Barton than anything one would hear from the post-1947 Court. The Vidal Court said that the government in its school "may, nay must impart to their youthful pupils . . . the Bible, and especially the New Testament," which must "be read and taught as a divine revelation in the college -- its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained, and its glorious principles of morality inculcated." The Court asked rhetorically:

Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the sacred volume?

The Bible MUST be taught in government schools, the 1844 Court declared.

You would NEVER EVER hear language like this from the modern secularist Court. But you ALWAYS heard language like this from the Founding Fathers.


If the Supreme Court could say that America in the 1800's was a Christian nation, it must be admitted that America in the 1900's had become a more secular and materialistic nation. Christians in the 20th century had become more cowardly and retreatist, and atheists had come "out of the closet." Government greatly expanded its powers in ways which were clearly unconstitutional, and no one said much of anything. Men who bitterly opposed the idea of America as "Christian nation" obtained positions of power in the government and began implementing the religion of Secular Humanism. The Court in 1947 set the groundwork for the complete and overt secularization of the legal system.

The "Lemon test" requires that all legislation conform to the tenets of the religion of Secular Humanism. Legislation cannot be motivated by the desire to glorify God and extend Christ's Kingdom (which the Holy Trinity Court noted was the purpose of the colonization of the New World), legislation could not have the effect of increasing morality and faith, nor could the government be "entangled" with morality and Godliness.

The "Lemon test" ensures that government only advances the religion of Secularism.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK joins, concurring in Lemon v Kurtzman 403 U.S. 602, 640 (1971) noted how frequently the Everson opinion has been cited:

We said in unequivocal words in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 16, "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." We reiterated the same idea in Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 314, and in McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 443, and in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 493. We repeated the same idea in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 210, and added that a State's tax-supported public schools could not be used "for the dissemination of religious doctrines" nor could a State provide the church "pupils for their religious classes through use of the State's compulsory public school machinery." Id., at 212. Yet in spite of this long and consistent history there are those who have the courage to announce that a State may nonetheless finance the secular part of a sectarian school's educational program.

Note that in 1844 the Court said that the government MUST teach the Bible in a reverent way and inculcate its precepts. Today the Court says that the government cannot even fund SECULAR subjects in a religious school. It's a different world.

It should be noted that the most frequently-quoted lines from Everson, the words that have re-shaped church-state relations, would be (by the anti-Holy Trinity definition) "obiter dicta." In fact, the holding in Everson is virtually forgotten. In fact, the holding is largely inconsistent with the rest of the opinion (as the dissenters were quick to point out).

The question in Everson was whether it was constitutional for the state to re-imburse parents for the expense of bussing their kids to a religious school in the same way it reimbursed parents who bussed their kids to a public school. The majority approved the reimbursement, on the theory that it was a "general welfare" expenditure. Just as it is constitutional for the state to pay for police, fire and sewage connections for a religious school, so it is OK to pay for safe transportation for children attending religious schools, just as it pays for the safety of children going to public schools.

So much for the "holding" in the case. But in the course of reaching this decision, the Court engaged in some historical revisionism, setting out an outline of the secular history of the First Amendment, relying on a secularized version of Madison and Jefferson. It is this history which is most frequently cited, and language which is arguably "dicta" is the cornerstone of secularist decisions since Everson.

In Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 599-601 (1992) JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom JUSTICE STEVENS and JUSTICE O'CONNOR join, concurring, said:

This Court first reviewed a challenge to state law under the Establishment Clause in Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).1 Relying on the history of the Clause, and the Court's prior analysis, Justice Black outlined the considerations that have become the touchstone of Establishment Clause jurisprudence: neither a State nor the Federal Government can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither a State nor the Federal Government, openly or secretly, can participate in the affairs of any religious organization and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause [505 U.S. 577, 601] against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State." Everson, 330 U.S., at 16 (quoting Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1879)). The dissenters agreed: "The Amendment's purpose . . . was to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion." 330 U.S., at 31-32 (Rutledge, J., dissenting, joined by Frankfurter, Jackson, and Burton, JJ.).

In a footnote, the language of Everson most frequently quoted is found:

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

Justice Rehnquist has shown that the Everson dictum is historically inaccurate:

As the United States moved from the 18th into the 19th century, Congress appropriated time and again public moneys in support of sectarian Indian education carried on by religious organizations. Typical of these was Jefferson's treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians, which provided annual cash support for the Tribe's Roman Catholic priest and church. J. O'Neill, Religion and Education Under the Constitution 118-119 (1949). See generally R. Cord, Separation of Church and State 61-82 (1982). This history shows the fallacy of the notion found in Everson that "no tax in any amount" may be levied for religious activities in any form. 330 U.S., at 15-16.
Rehnquist, dissenting in Wallace v. Jaffree 472 U.S. 38, 104 (1985)

There is no legal reason why the idea of a "Christian nation" which teaches the Bible to all its students cannot be the foundation of our church-state thinking. There is no legal or constitutional reason which forced the Court to abandon the world of Vidal, Holy Trinity, and Kaskaskia. It was simply the desire of the Court to impose the religion of Secular Humanism on a Christian nation.

Calling the Christian history of America "obiter dicta" is an argument without power, because Everson's secular history of America is also "obiter dicta." These legal acrobatics are all a facade to avoid the REAL issue: Does America have a duty to acknowledge God and obey His Word? The Court in the 1800's said YES. The Court in the 1900's said NO. The results have been exactly as earlier courts predicted: A "lapse into the dark and murky night of Pagan immorality."

The "separation of church and state" is a huge lie.

Kevin C.

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.
Micah 4:1-7 


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