Will Separation Of Church And State Hold Up?



The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just held that the words "under God" in a public school pledge of allegiance to the American flag violates the separation of church and state requirement of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The significance of this decision depends on whether the Supreme Court accepts review of the case and, if so, how it resolves the issue. Since this case meets Supreme Court criteria for review because it involved a conflict on this substantial Constitutional issue between the Seventh and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, there is a good chance the Supreme Court will decide the issue.

The pertinent language of the First Amendment is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Abuses of power by state churches in Europe was a matter of concern to the framers of the Constitution. The objectives of the above-quoted language were to prohibit establishment of a state church, and to guarantee freedom of worship. Many of our ancestors migrated to the United States before and after the enactment of the First Amendment to secure freedom of worship.

A question arising out of this Ninth Circuit decision is how much does it threaten our freedom of worship? Other questions are: What kind of precedent does it set? How far will judges go in implementing the decision? How can we completely separate worship and government when both are so much a part of our culture and every day lives? Do we repeal a large body of criminal law because the 10 Commandments cover the same subject? Do we change our currency to delete the word "God"? Do we eliminate all chapels at the military posts and service academies, and all chaplains in the government service?

Associate Justice Story of the United States Supreme Court believed Christianity and the common law to be the foundation of the Union, liberty and social order. "Joseph Story and The American Constitution" by James McClellan, page 119.

My experience indicates that most people I know would agree with Justice Story. There is a substantial chance that today's relatively conservative Supreme Court will view the First Amendment in its historical context and reverse the Ninth Circuit decision.

Jim Winter, Payson

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