Saturday, February 03, 2007
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has an important article at its magazine, Church & State, which is also available online. Entitled "Everson At 60" and addressing "The Most Important Church-State Decision You Never Heard Of," it is an appreciation of the case of Everson v. Board of Education, rightfully said to have been the event that "Kicked Off The Culture Wars."
As the article notes, televangelist Pat Robertson can barely contain his anger when he talks about Everson and Religious Right historical revisionists, like David Barton, distort its underpinnings. Everyone remotely interested in the issue of protecting religion from government, and vice versa, ought to read this article in order to understand the importance of Everson. Then you ought to go read the decision itself, if for no other reason than to encounter, in its full context, Justice Hugo Black's eloquent description of the meaning of the Establishment Clause:
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 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.