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BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EWING TP. et al.
Argued Nov. 20, 1946.
Decided Feb. 10, 1947.
The significance of this case for Christians taking a Test Oath. This case is the cornerstone of the myth of "separation of church and state." It is cited frequently. Although the Court upholds a state expenditure which benefits parents of students in parochial schools, the Court's conclusion does not follow easily from its reasoning, which affirms the "separation" myth. The dissents point out this philosophical tension.
Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
Mr. Justice JACKSON, dissenting.
Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE, with whom Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, Mr. Justice JACKSON and Mr. Justice BURTON agree, dissenting.
APPENDIX Memorial And Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments.
SUPPLEMENTAL APPENDIX A Bill Establishing A Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion.
This is perhaps the most important church-state case in this century; only the Lemon case may have been cited more frequently. The Court actually upheld expenditures which benefited Christians, but "dicta" in the opinion has had a tremendous influence. Here are the words most frequently quoted:
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 entertain- [330 U.S. 1, 16] ing 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 from 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.' Reynolds v. United States, supra, 98 U.S. at page 164.
Everson at 15-16 While there is some truth here, the language in this important paragraph is ambiguous, and its ambiguity has been exploited by Justices with a secularist axe to grind.
"Religious Activities" "No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities," the Court says. Really? James 1:27 says the essence of true religion is taking care of widows and orphans. Religious organizations have been carrying out this religious activity for centuries. To say "no tax" can be levied to support the care of widows is to declare the entire Social Security system "unconstitutional." (Perhaps rightly so.)
Religion and State Jefferson spoke of a "wall of separation between church and state," but the Court here repeatedly speaks of a separation between "religion" and state, as though the State cannot distinguish between religion and non-religion, between a Christian parent and a pagan who sacrifices his virgin daughter to the sun-god. Subsequent courts have used this language to separate the State from God and from that obedience to God which we call "religion." Not a single person who signed the Constitution had this in mind.
Note the citation of Reynolds by the Everson Court.. This is laughable, enough to embarrass a second-year con-law student. Justice Rehnquist exposed the Everson theory:
- Reynolds is the only authority cited as direct precedent for the "wall of separation theory." 330 U.S., at 16. Reynolds is truly inapt; it dealt with a Mormon's Free Exercise Clause challenge to a federal polygamy law.
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), note 1 of his dissent.
But the inaptly-applied metaphor has stayed with us. In particular, the dissenters in Everson have been cited frequently; in Abington at 374 U.S. 203, 217, McGowan in note 18, and by J, Blackmun, with whom J. Stevens and J. O'Connor join, concurring in Lee v. Weisman:
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.). Lee v. Weisman 505 U.S. 577, 599
Not a single member of the "Religious Right" believes that the Federal Government should levy taxes to "support" any churches. But in ways so numerous it would be difficult to count them, the men who signed the Constitution believed the government was ethically obligated to obey the will of God, and to endorse belief in God and obedience to His Commandments. See some of those ways here.
The dissenters in Everson believed that the "wall" metaphor should have been more strictly adhered to. Their views would come to prevail. Everson would unleash a communist-style pogrom against religious beliefs in the public square.
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