the Christian roots that once underpinned U.S. government

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Rexlion, Dec 23, 2022.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I've ordered a copy of the Douglass book.

    One cannot legitimately lambast 19th Century Christianity on the basis of slavery, appalling though the treatment of slaves often was. Even in the 15 slave states, less than 5% of the free population were slave owners. The percentage in the other states surely was negligible. Not all slave owners were brutal either, but even assuming all of them were, it hardly makes sense to paint all of 19th Century Christianity as immoral or insincere on the basis of a scant few slave owners.

    As for "tolerating, encouraging, and protecting" slavery, everyone should realize by now what a difficult road it was, both politically and socially, to end the practice. Many people simply had to bide their time and pray; not much else they could do.
     
  2. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    They could have recognized it as manifestly evil. They could have condemned it. They could have demanded its destruction. There were at least some who did, and they were effectively marginalized, in the North as well as the South, and treated as though they were a lunatic fringe. They knew that “thoughts and prayers” weren’t going to make it just go away. Bear in mind, this went on decades after Britain and Revolutionary France had abolished slavery themselves, without having to resort to civil war. In 1850, slaves in the Southern States accounted for nearly one-third of the total population. So 1 in every 20 people you would come across on average owned about 1 out of every 3. That is heinous. Recognizing that fact is about the most basic moral test any society could face, and antebellum America failed that test miserably.
     
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Dunno.... I can relate to the difficulty they might have had. For example, I know that same-sex marriage is manifestly evil. But it's legal. Would I dare condemn it, and have my employer find out? Would I be ostracized as a bigot? "Thoughts and prayers" aren't going to make it go away, but it's about all I have. (That's simply an example; I hope you get the picture.)
     
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    “Evil” is a strong word. Slavery was, among other things, the intentional infliction of intense mental and physical pain against an entire people across numerous generations. We cannot avoid acknowledging that American slavery was manifestly evil. Viewed in those terms, there’s no real basis of comparison between that and modern ‘culture war’ issues. In no sense is slavery comparable to same-sex marriage.
     
  5. Br. Thomas

    Br. Thomas Active Member

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    I sit here in Dixie and smile at all of the "history" being slung about slavery, the South and Sherman. Do any of you honestly think that the Civil War was over slavery? Close to 70% of the US budget was paid for by tariffs and taxes on goods or products from the South. Lincoln would have lost that funding for his budget and that of the nation had the South successfully seceded. Sherman's rampage through GA, burning of Atlanta and March to the Sea are taught in history books written by the victors. I live within minutes of sites where farms were pillaged and destroyed for the booty that the soldiers were allowed to plunder. Do you think that 300,000 or more died fighting for the Confederacy to allow a minority to maintain slavery? What of the freed slaves that fought for the Confederacy? Robert E. Lee freed his slaves that were inherited from his father-in-law long before Sherman and the aristocracy of the North freed their slaves. It took an act of Congress to force many of them to. Lee and his wife took slaves to church with them. She taught slaves to read and write, which was against the law. The largest number of slaves in South Carolina was that of a Black slave-owner. Slavery as an abomination to be done away with came after support for the War was losing ground in the North. I know many will argue and quote this history-book or that writer, but sit down with people who live and breathe the Civil War and get a different perspective of life in Dixie other than what Yankee history books promote. I have no stake in promoting the South. I am first-generation American, so I cannot say my great-great-grandfather did this or that in the Civil War or what side he may have been on. I am just an observer and listener that moved to Dixie fifteen years ago for good. I do know that many of the church here have roots from slaves, share-croppers and that it was quite common for the majority of a small-town's citizens to attend church. I would disagree that more people attend church now. Just my two-cents worth and can be easily cast aside.
     
  6. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Of course it was. The preponderance of evidence here is overwhelming. All one needs to do is read the Declarations of Secession of the various Southern States to know this. Remove the references to slavery in those documents, and no basis for dispute between the States remains. But we need not stop there: it’s also possible to dig much deeper and nonetheless arrive at the same unavoidable conclusion. Autobiographical information, including diaries and personal letters that have been recovered and preserved, from the Confederate leaders down to the common soldiers, confirm that the root cause of the war was indeed slavery. That is what the South was fighting for. That this was so is the main aspect of the war that isn’t and hasn’t been in dispute among reputable historians of the era.

    The alternative “States’ rights” explanation has long been discredited: for starters, the antebellum Southern States had no qualms whatsoever about using the Senate and the federal judiciary to force their ideology not only upon Northern States that opposed and outlawed slavery, but also upon newly created territories. Nor was it about self-determination or the “consent of the governed,” and one need look no further than at the Gestapo-like tactics that were used by the Confederate government to suppress dissent in East Tennessee, which historically opposed slavery and was overwhelmingly pro-Union.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2022
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  7. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War

    The causes behind Southern states' decision to secede were complex and have been historically controversial; most academic scholars identify slavery as the central cause of the war. The causes are further complicated by some historical revisionists who have tried to offer a variety of reasons for the war. Slavery was the central source of escalating political tension in the 1850s. The Republican Party was determined to prevent any spread of slavery to the territories, which, after they were admitted as states, would give the North greater representation in Congress and the Electoral College.

    Many Southern leaders had threatened secession if the Republican candidate, Lincoln, won the 1860 election. After Lincoln won, many Southern leaders felt that disunion was their only option, fearing that the loss of representation would hamper their ability to enact pro-slavery laws and policies. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln said that slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
    For those whose economic well-being was dependent on slave labour, the abolition of slavery posed a real threat to their wealth and their ability to earn a living. So without passing judgement it seems entirely reasonable to conclude that the slavery issue was quite clearly a significant part of the causes of the American Civil War.
     
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, abolishing slavery was the leading purpose for which the Republican Party was formed. The Democrat Party continued to advocate for racial inequality and segregation for decades following the war's conclusion.
     
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Not to be nitpicky, but the reason the Republican Party was founded was primarily to prevent the expansion of slavery into the territories, not to abolish it in States that already had it. They also favored heavy federal government spending on, and involvement in, public works. In 20th century terms, the Republicans of the latter half of the 19th century were “progressives” by the standards of the day, who favored “big government”, which the Democratic Party - ‘Democrat Party’ is incorrect usage, unfortunately popularized in a pejorative sense by right wing talk radio in the 1990s, and is thus anachronistic here - favored more restraint on the part of the federal government overall and tended to be composed and led by ‘small’ or ‘limited’ government advocates (which is why, for example, the chartering of a national bank was such a fraught political issue in the antebellum era). The Democratic Party later split in two over the issue of slavery along regional lines. Following Reconstruction, neither Party unambiguously supported the full integration of the emancipated on a fair and equal footing until the postwar era, when the Democratic Party took the lead in embracing Civil Rights (beginning with Truman’s full integration of the military), while the Republicans sought electoral success in part by appealing to reactionary elements, particularly in the South. 60 years later, the one thing I think both sides can agree on is that we still have a very long way to go.
     
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  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Oh, really?? I think you located several nits! :laugh:

    I still personally prefer "Democrat Party" because they seem more Socialistic than Democratic nowadays. (Meanwhile the Republicans seem just plain corrupt) :angry:
     
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  11. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The illusion of the western democratic system is that we have a choice!?
     
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  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    It’s still incorrect; that’s not the name of the party. Besides, in no sense is the Democratic Party a “socialist” party. It is a capitalist party, through-and-through. No one that caucuses with Democrats, not even Bernie Sanders, advocates public ownership of the means of production. People either need to learn what the word “socialism” actually means, or stop using it. :angry:
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2022
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  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Ok, "modified socialism". Or "democratic socialism." We should not think for one second that the government does not control, or at the very least strive to exercise control over, the means of production in this country.
     
  14. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Nonsense. It’s either socialism or it’s not. If the means of production aren’t publicly owned, it’s not socialism. And no, the Democratic Party (including its progressive wing that itself incorrectly employs the term ‘socialism’) isn’t trying to implement it, either. That would involve, for starters, buying all non-residential land and all publicly-traded companies with public funds. There’s no electoral mandate for that, and all that would imply. And where would the funding for that even come from? Our debt is already close to 100% of GDP. Taxation would have to reach truly apocalyptic levels and then stay there for decades, sending chronic unemployment into the stratosphere (and making the property they were trying to buy worthless in the process), or they would have to multiply the debt many times over, with the vast majority coming from overseas, and State-owned property effectively becoming collateral for the loans. Democratic “controls” would be meaningless. Everyone on the Left knows this would be completely impractical and self-defeating and that’s why no one with any interest in a career in politics will go anywhere near such proposals. It’s neither possible nor desirable.
     
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.

    Historically the courts in the US have been respectful of the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause, which was drafted to protect the free exercise of religion. The rights of people to be Christian and to express themselves as such were protected, not only by this clause, but also by the "free speech" clause. However, this has drastically changed in the most recent half-century.

    At issue in Engel v. Vitale (US Supreme Court, 1962) was a New York State law that required public schools to open each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a nondenominational prayer in which the students recognized their dependence upon God. The law allowed students to absent themselves from this activity if they found it objectionable. A parent sued on behalf of his child. Here was the prayer:

    "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country."

    The Court held that this was a case of the State of New York sponsoring prayer and that such state-sponsored prayer is unconstitutional, even though even when the prayer is denominationally neutral and even though students who so wished could remain silent or be excused from the room while the prayer is being recited.

    Roughly 230 years ago the federal government encouraged prayer (even calling for national days of prayer) and Bible reading. How did we go from encouragement of prayer and Bible reading to a constitutional prohibition against state-sponsored prayer in schools? The short answer: by small, incremental changes in law and in legal interpretation over a period of decades.

    To begin an examination of these changes, we need to go back in time to 1801, when the Danbury Baptist Association wrote a letter to then-President Thomas Jefferson expressing their concern about their religious freedoms; at the time they were undergoing some harassment and pressure for not belonging to the Congregationalist establishment in Connecticut. President Jefferson addressed their fears and sought to reassure them that their freedom to remain Baptists was protected by the First Amendment:

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
    Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all of his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.​

    This statement was not a part of US law and, so far as I have been able to ascertain, was never mentioned in any court case until Reynolds v. United States in 1878. But even in that case it was more of a 'passing mention' than a basis for rendering the Court's ruling. But in Everson v. Board of Education (1947) Jefferson's statement was turned into a foundation-stone for the decision in that case, and it has remained a foundation-stone ever since for a succession of court cases to build a legal edifice upon it.

    Why did Jefferson use the phrase, "wall of separation," and did he mean for such a wall to be impermeable from both directions? A search for context takes us to a statement made by one of the Baptists' most prominent ministers of that day, Roger Williams: "...When they have opened a gap in the wall or hedge of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world..." Rev. Williams spoke of a wall that protected the "garden of the church" from the "wilderness of the world." Referencing the phraseology and thoughts of one of their own Baptist ministers was Jefferson's way of reassuring them that he and they shared the same concern and interests.

    But one must ask oneself: would a Baptist minister or a Baptist association have any worries that the world needed protection from the church? Of course not. This was never at issue in the Danbury Baptist's missive to Jefferson, and surely Jefferson (who wished to assuage their fears) would not have intended to make it an issue in his response.

    Thus, the historical context shows that the phrase, "wall of separation" was meant to indicate a legal barrier protecting the church from secular government, not vice versa. And we see from the many statements and court rulings of the following century that his so-called "wall" was more of an "osmotic barrier" that let free religious belief and practice into all aspects of US life and society while it kept government intrusion out of the church and religious practice. All through the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th, schools led students in prayer and taught Bible-based morality.

    The Court in Reynolds, in upholding a Utah polygamy conviction, cited Jefferson's statement and then wrote, "Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people. At common law, the second marriage was always void (2 Kent, Com. 79), and from the earliest history of England, polygamy has been treated as an offence against society." Thus, the convicted defendant could not claim "freedom of religion" to violate long-standing law.

    Note that the aforementioned Court called Jefferson's words "almost an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First A]mendment..." Unfortunately, the Court in Everson treated this mention of Jefferson's statement as fully authoritative evidence of the Amendment's intended reach, in contradiction to a century and a half of legal precedents. Normally the Court would cite most or all of the past precedents and consider their pros and cons. But in this decision, the Court disregarded them.

    Let's look at what was at issue in the Everson case. A New Jersey state law allowed school districts to "contract out" the transportation of children to schools and to provide to parents some amount for transportation reimbursement. Some children living within the district were enrolled in private (Catholic) schools, so the parents of these children were using the money to pay for their kids' transportation to the private school. A disgruntled parent (I surmise he was an atheist) sued, claiming that it violated his First Amendment rights, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, for his tax dollars to be ultimately used for children to be transported to a religious private school. The Court actually ruled against this plaintiff; but in doing so they created an important legal precedent by (1) interpreting Jefferson's "wall of separation" as one that guards from both directions, and by (2) solidifying a connection whereby the First Amendment could be applied as a limitation upon individual states by coupling it with the Fourteenth Amendment.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2022
  16. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    For historical context, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were passed shortly after the Civil War, and their primary purposes (respectively) were to abolish slavery, to provide people of color with equal protection under the laws, and to ensure the same with the right to vote. (However, there are sections which addressed other issues, such as senators and representatives in government.)

    With that in mind, let's see the pertinent portion of the Fourteenth Amendment:
    Section 1
    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. 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.​

    Due to Everson v. Board of Education and subsequent legal decisions based upon it, it is now routinely held that the First Amendment, which was intended to protect the rights of individuals from the federal government, can be applied via the Fourteenth Amendment as a limitation upon the rights of state courts and legislatures. Previously, "states' rights" was the principal law of the land. Now the federal government exercises vast control over the states, control the founders never intended it to possess, for they greatly feared the very thing that has come to pass.

    This is how the US Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale was able to forbid the students in New York public schools from being led in a nondenominational prayer, even though participation in the prayer was fully optional.

    Since this ruling, things have grown worse for religious practice, as I shall show later on.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2022
  17. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    Yes but who forgot to tell native American Indians this interesting fact.
     
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  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Native Americans have dual citizenship: They are citizens of the US and the State where they reside, and they are citizens of their sovereign tribe.

    But if you mean during the latter 1800s after the Fourteenth Amendment, one issue is the fact that the conflicts were taking place "way out west" in territories that were not (yet) states. The Dakotas and Montana were admitted in 1889, Idaho and Wyoming in 1890, Oklahoma in 1907, and Arizona & New Mexico in 1912. Until statehood the US Army often was involved in protecting settlers from the tribes.

    Obviously the atrocious way natives of the Southeast (Florida, Georgia, etc.) were forced to journey along the "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma territory is indefensible, but it occurred before the Fourteenth Amendment was passed.

    An aside: In every conflict, one side tends to think of and portray the other side as less worthy of respect, less worthy of legal protections, less worthy of life, or even less human. Human fickleness is a terrible thing to behold. Example: in WWII plenty of Americans outright hated Germans and Japanese people, even the ones who were good citizens here. Current illustration: the western media portrayal and western people's opinion of Russians... it's not too bad yet, but I will be so bold as to predict that within the next year or two it will ratchet up significantly (I really hope I'm wrong).
     
  19. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Everson v. Board of Education was decided in 1947. Although the Court in that decision upheld the school district's right to reimburse parents for bus or other transportation to school, even when the parents used the money to get their kids to a parochial school, the majority of justices on the Court at that time were not as open to religion as most Americans (and justices) were in the past. We can see this in their written decision, which included the following:

    "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 or 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 nonattendance. 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.'... That wall must be kept high and impregnable."​

    The Court stated, for the first time in America's history, that religious groups may not participate in the affairs of either federal government or state government. And they stated it emphatically (note the italics for emphasis in the Court's written opinion; italics supplied by them, not me). Moreover, they stated for the first time that no tax money "can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions" (even when the activity or group is nonsectarian).

    Engel v. Vitale (1962), which stopped school sponsored prayer in schools, was already discussed, but I should add that the Court therein misstated the reason why the Establishment Clause was included in the Amendment: "[The] first and most immediate purpose [of the Establishment Clause] rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion." This statement is contradictory to the historical record. The Establishment Clause was meant simply to prevent government from declaring a 'state sect'.

    Now let's look at some of the other subsequent cases that have been decided on the basis of this new precedent.

    In Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), the high court disallowed school sponsored readings from the Bible and recitation of the Lord's Prayer. At issue was a Pennsylvania law which said: "At least ten verses from the Holy Bible shall be read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day. Any child shall be excused from such Bible reading, or attending such Bible reading, upon the written request of his parent or guardian." The child was permitted to choose which verses to read the verses aloud over the intercom, after which all students were asked to stand and say the Lord's Prayer; however, parents and students were informed that the kids were not required to participate and could even leave the room for the duration. (The plaintiffs, the Schempps, were Unitarian.) The Court quoted its opinion in Engel that "a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion." It concluded that the PA law made an establishment of religion, and it even went so far as to say that the PA law had "collided" with the Schempp's free exercise of religion.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    As a result and upon the basis of the Supreme Court decisions, many lower court decisions (both federal appellate courts and state supreme courts) are rendered, and if the Supreme Court denies to certify an appeal to it, the decision stands. Such is the situation in DeSpain v. Dekalb County Community School District (1967), in which a kindergarten teacher was disallowed from having her students recite, "We thank you for the flowers so sweet. We thank you for the food we eat. We thank you for the birds that sing; We thank you for everything." Although the word "God" was not present, the Federal Court of Appeals, 2nd. Circuit, determined that it was unconstitutional for the children to recite it.

    In State Board of Education v. Board of Education of Netcong (1970), the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the voluntary reading of a prayer by a student prior to the start of school, even though the prayer was read from the Congressional Record (it was the chaplain's prayer, made during a session of US Congress).

    Returning to the US Supreme Court decisions, in Wallace v. Jaffree (1984) the Court struck down a 1-minute period of silence in the state's public schools for voluntary prayer or meditation. Oddly, the Court said that the statute behind this minute of silence would have been all right, were it not for the fact that the legislator who authored the bill stated that it "was solely an 'effort to return voluntary prayer' to the public schools" so as "to provide children the opportunity of sharing in their spiritual heritage of Alabama and of this country." The Court declared the statute invalid because of its sponsor's motive. Fortunately, many school districts learned from this and instituted the practice of a "moment of silence" for voluntary prayer or meditation, without specifying a motivation! But isn't it sad to see how far the Supreme Court moved away from the original intent of the founding fathers?

    In Stone v. Gramm (1980), the US Supreme Court disallowed the posting of copies of the Ten Commandments on school walls in Kentucky's public schools. The state had included at the bottom of each copy, "The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States." The state court agreed. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court found otherwise:

    The preeminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact... If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.​

    Thus, the Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments on a wall in school by the state was an 'establishment of religion.'

    To sum up this judicial trend, I tend to agree with the statement made not long ago by Matt Clark, president of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty: “The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was originally intended to do two things: prevent the establishment of a national church (like the Church of England), and prevent the government from using force to make people worship in a certain way. But since the 1940’s, the Supreme Court has butchered the Establishment Clause to mean that the government or its agents cannot acknowledge God, even if it does so in a noncoercive way.”
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2022