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The Constitution and Religion


The First Amendment forbids Congress from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The United States Supreme Court, in Everson v. Board of Education (1947), insisted that the First Amendment means that neither federal nor state governments "can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another."

The drafters and ratifiers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights defined religion in terms of Judeo-Christian theism.

Accordingly, the First Amendment was "God-centered." James Madison called religion "the duty we owe our Creator."

He did not define religion as "irreligion" or atheism.

They are the antithesis of religion, not religion.

The religious clauses of the First Amendment were written with God as the focal point.

But, that God-centeredness has been abandoned by a Supreme Court misinterpretation designed to put the Supreme Court above God in a secular state neutral between religion and "irreligion."

Article VI of the Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Oliver Ellsworth, a Connecticut delegate to the Constitutional Convention, explained that this clause prohibiting any religious test for public office in a published letter written after the Constitution was written and before it was ratified.

And Ellsworth made it clear that the clause was NOT intended to undermine religious values.

Ellsworth wrote:

"Some very worthy persons who have not had great advantages for information have objected against that clause in the Constitution which provides that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion."

Ellsworth assured:

"But, my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution and to secure to you the important right of religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person, he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or, in other words, he is not subject to persecution."

Ellsworth dismissed "a test in favor of any one denomination of Christians" as "absurd" and an "indignity" to which the majority of American citizens would not submit.

But, Ellsworth rejected a test "requiring all person appointed to to office to declare, at the time of their admission, their belief in the being of a God, and in the divine authority of the Scriptures," even though "it may be said that one who believes these great truths will not be so likely to violate his obligations to his country as one who disbelieves them" and therefore "we may have greater confidence in his integrity," but because England's experience with religious tests showed that "[t]he most abandoned characters partake of the sacrament in order to qualify themselves for public employments," "the most sacred office of religion" should not be "thus prostitute[d]," and "making a declaration of such a belief is no security at all," because it is " dissemble" for "an unprincipled man who believes neither the Word nor the being of God" and is "governed merely by selfish motives."

Ellsworth further wrote:

"The business of a civil government is to protect the citizen in his rights, to defend the community from hostile powers, and to promote the general welfare. Civil government has no business to meddle with the private opinions of people. "

Note the word private.

"If I demean myself as a good citizen," Ellsworth continued, "I am accountable not to man but to God for the religions opinions that I embrace and the manner in which I worship the Supreme Being."

Those who wrote and ratified the Constitution recognized both a Supreme Being and a distinction between acts and opinions.

Even James Madison, in his letter remonstrating against religious assessments favored by George Washington, proclaimed man's duty to God:

"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation to the claims of civil society. Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe....."

Ellsworth explained:

"[W]hile I assert the rights of religious liberty, I would not deny that the civil power has a right, in some cases, to interfere in matters of religion. It has a right to prohibit and punish gross immoralities and impieties; because the open practice of these is of evil example and detriment. For this reason, I heartily approve of our laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, blasphemy, and professed atheism."

Blasphemy is "the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God."

The following letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on civil laws against blasphemy is revealing.

Adams called for the repeal of such laws, but did NOT claim they are unconstitutional: "Quincy, January 21, 1825

"My Dear Sir: We think ourselves possessed, or at least we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact. There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny, or to doubt, the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself, it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red hot poker. In America it is not much better; even in our Massachusetts, which, I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemies upon any book of the Old Testament or the New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any arguments for investigation into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Volney's Recherches Nouvelles? Who would run the risk of translating Dapin's? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws into execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them; but as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress into its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever; but it has been with extraneous ingredients, which, I think, will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated."

Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on the subject of civil laws against blasphemy, January 21, 1825. Works of Thomas Jefferson, Volume VII, pages 396, 397. American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington, D.C. 1911, pp. 206-207.

The United States Supreme Court's perverse post-World War II holding that government must be neutral between religion and "irreligion" is reprehensible revisionism.

In 1892, the United States Supreme Court had emphatically declared that America was a Christian nation in the appropriately named Holy Trinity case.

After an exhaustive survey of America's founding charters, court decisions, and statutes.

Including Updegraph v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 11 Serg & R. 393, 394, decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1824, shortly before Adams wrote his anti-blasphemy laws letter to Jefferson.

The grand jury indictment in that case stated:

"Abner Updegraph . . . not having the fear of God before his eyes.. . contriving and intending to scandalize and bring into disrepute and vilify the Christian religion and the scriptures of truth in the presence and hearing of several persons . . . did unlawfully, wickedly and premeditatively, despitefully and blasphemously say. . . : 'That the Holy Scriptures were a mere fable: that they were a contradiction, and that although they contained a number of good things, yet they contained a great many lies.' To the great dishonor of Almighty God [and] to the great scandal of the profession of the Christian religion."

Updegraph was indicted under Pennsylvania's law against blasphemy and found guilty by the jury.

Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws, introduced in 1766, had been the law book of the Founding Fathers and so the Court turned to it for the legal definition of "blasphemy":

"Blasphemy against the Almighty is denying His being or Providence or uttering contumelious [insulting] reproaches on our Savior Christ. It is punished at common law by fine and imprisonment, for Christianity is part of the laws of the land."

By the legal definition, Updegraph obviously had violated the law.

Updegraph argued that he should not have been convicted , because (1) he was a member of a weekly debating association, and what he said had been uttered in the course of an argument on a religious question; and (2) both the State and federal Constitution protected freedom of speech, and that the federal Constitution put a stop to Christianity as part of the law and blasphemy laws.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected each argument.

The debating society argument distressed the Court, but did not disturb the conviction:

"The jury . . . finds a malicious intention in the speaker to vilify the Christian religion and the Scriptures and this court cannot look beyond the record nor take any notice of the allegation that the words were uttered by the defendant, a member of a debating association which convened weekly for discussion and mutual information. . . . That there is an association in which so serious a subject is treated with so much levity, indecency and scurrility [vulgar and obscene language] . . . I am sorry to hear, for it would prove a nursery of vice, a school of preparation to quality young men for the gallows and young women for the brothel, and there is not a skeptic of decent manners and good morals who would not consider such debating clubs as a common nuisance and disgrace to the city. . . . [I]t was the outpouring of an invective so vulgarly shocking and insulting that the lowest grade of civil authority ought not to be subject to it, but when spoken in a Christian land and to a Christian audience, the highest offence contra bonos mores [against proper standards]."

The deChristianization argument was refuted with utter assurance and apparent disdain: "[T]he assertion is once more made that Christianity never was received as part of the common law of this Christian land; and it is added that if it was it was virtually repealed by the Constitution of the United States and of this State. . . .

"We will first dispose of what is considered the grand objection -- the constitutionality of Christianity -- for, in effect, that is the question. Christianity, general Christianity, is and always has been a part of the common law. . . not Christianity founded on any particular religious tenets; not Christianity with an established church . . . but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.

"Thus this wise legislature framed this great body of laws for a Christian country and Christian people. . . . This is the Christianity of the common law. . . and thus it is irrefragably [undeniably] proved that the laws and institutions of this State are built on the foundation of reverence for Christianity . . . . In this the Constitution of the United States has made no alteration nor in the great body of the laws which was an incorporation of the common-law doctrine of Christianity.

"No free government now exists in the world unless where Christianity is acknowledged and is the religion of the country. . . . Its foundations are broad and strong and deep . . . it is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws."

These days the United States Supreme Court says the opposite, although there was no constitutional amendment designed to change the law in the interim.

And homosexuality is no longer offically classified as a disorder by the medical authorities and its place as a disorder has been taken by religion, according to "comedian" Bill Marr.

"I always call religion a neurological disorder," Marr declared. "I really do believe that.... I'm just saying if you took religion out of it and somebody went to a psychiatrist and said you know I believe in you know this crazy, illogical thing, the shrink would say, well you have a neurological disorder. And you need to really get therapy or take a pill."

THAT kind of thinking is the disordered result of the United States Supreme Court have made new law instead of respecting the established law.


Michael J. Gaynor
95 Darrow Lane
Greenlawn, New York 11740-2803
(631) 757-9452 (tel)
(631) 754-3437 (fax)


Michael J. Gaynor NY, US
Michael J. Gaynor - Attorney, 631 757-9452



Constitution, religion, First Amendment, blasphemy, religious tests, religious freedom, Oliver Ellsworth, John Adams, James Madison

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