Religion and Law in Contemporary US
Prof. William R. Long
September 24, 2006; First Presbyterian Church, Portland
I. Introduction and Review
A. America as Having One Religion--Protestant, Catholic and Jew (coming out of WWII). The D-Day Prayer of FDR; Four Chaplains
B. The Doctrine of Separation of Church and State (articulated by the Supreme Court in the 1947 Everson case).
C. A Supreme Court case from 1948 applying the Principles of Everson (relating to 30 minutes of optional released-time religious education on school premises taught by outside religious teachers).
II. The Emergence of the Modern Evangelical Movement
A. The Break from Fundamentalism
B. A Cultural Critique
C. Evangelicals and "Warm" Religion--The importance of Revivalistic Piety, "coming to Jesus," being "born again," having an "experience of grace."
III. American Religion in the Eisenhower Days
A. The "Back to God" Movement and Movements--contrasting our way of life with the "godless Communists."
B. Eisenhower's Dec. 1952 Speech.
C. The Addition of "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, and some legal reflections on the Pledge.
D. A "Christian" Amendment to the US Constitution? (Introduced in 1953).
IV. Religion and the Election of 1960
Kennedy's Speech Before the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance on Sept. 22, 1960.
V. Taking "God" Out of the Public Schools--the Elimination of Prayer and Daily Scripture Reading by two Decisions of the US Supreme Court. Only Have time for Engel v. Vitale (1962).
The Important quotation from Everson v. Board of Education (1947)
"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."
From Eisenhower's Dec. 22, 1952 address before a meeting of the directors of the Freedoms Foundation in New York City.
He recalled how hopeless it was to talk to a Red Army officer (Zhukov) about religion once he knew about the differences between American democracy and Soviety Communism. There was no reason to talk to him because "our form of government is founded on religion....Our ancestors who formed this government said, 'We hold that all men are endowed by their Creator...' Not by the accident of birth, not by the color of their skins or by anything else, but 'all men are endowed by their Creator,...In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept but it must be a religion that believes all men are created equal...Even those among us who are, in my opinion, so silly as to doubt the existence of an Almighty, are still members of a religious civilization, because the Founding Fathers said it was a religious concept that they were trying to translate into the political world."
Text of suggested Amendment to the US Constitution, introduced by US Sen. Ralph Flanders (R-VT) in 1954, which received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments:
"This nation divinely recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God."
Excerpt from John Kennedy's speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance during the campaign against Richard Nixon for President in 1960.
"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Portestant, nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indicrectly upon the general populace or the publica acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a catholica gainst whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be agains, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's Statute of Religious Freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all mena nd all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anit-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Portestants, and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and idvision which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood."
From the 1962 US Supreme Court Decision, Engel v. Vitale.
Here is the text of the prayer adopted by the New York State Board of Regents, which the US Supreme Court found unconstitutional on June 25, 1962.
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."
From Engel v. Vitale (1962)
"There can be no doubt that New York's state prayer program officially establishes the religious beliefs embodied in the Regents' prayer. The respondents' argument to the contrary, which is largely based upon the contention that the Regents' prayer is "nondenominational" and the fact that the program, as modified and approved by state courts, does not require all pupils to recite the prayer, but permits those who wish to do so to remain silent or be excused from the room, ignores the essential nature of the program's constitutional defects. Neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally neutral nor the fact that its observance on the part of the students is voluntary can serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause, as it might from the Free Exercise Clause, of the First Amendment, both of which are operative against the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although these two clauses may, in certain instances, overlap, they forbid two quite different kinds of governmental encroachment upon religious freedom. The Establishment Clause, unlike the Free Exercise Clause, does not depend upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by the enactment of laws which establish an official religion whether those laws operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not."
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long