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Justice Thomas McKean
Served as governor in Delaware and Pennsylvania. During his tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, he offered these words of advice to John Roberts -- a man sentenced to death.

Respublica vs. John Roberts

"You will probably have but a short time to live. Before you launch into eternity it behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins; to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer, and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow….May you, reflecting upon these things, and pursuing the will of the great Father of light and life, be received into [the] company and society of angels and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect; and may you be qualified to enter into the joys of Heavens -- joys unspeakable and full of glory."

John Jay, 1777
The first Chief Justice of the United States

"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and the interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

James Wilson,
a signer of the Constitution and an original Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court

"Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine....Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other."

Justice Samuel Chase
Runkel v. Winemiller, 1799

"Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty."

Justice Joseph Story

"The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance [approve of], much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity [secularism], by prostrating [overcoming] Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations]..."

Justice Joseph Story
A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States 1840

"We are not to attribute this prohibition of the national religious establishment [in the First Amendment] to any indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution)... at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.

... Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate [immoral] are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them."

Justice Joseph Story
Vidal v. Girard's Executors 1844

"Christianity... is not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against, to the annoyance of believers or the injury of the public..."

Justice Joseph Story

"There is not a truth to be gathered from history more certain, or more momentous, than this: that civil liberty cannot long be separated from religious liberty without danger, and ultimately without destruction to both.

"Wherever religious liberty exists, it will, first or last, bring in and establish political liberty."

Chief Justice John Marshall
In a letter to Jasper Adams, May 9, 1833

"The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it."

Thomas Cooley
In his General Principles of Constitutional Law 1890

"It was never intended by the Constitution that the government should be prohibited from recognizing religion, or that religious worship should never be provided for in cases where a proper recognition of Divine Providence in the working of government might seem to require it, and where it might be done without drawing an invidious distinction between religious beliefs, organizations, or sects. The Christian religion was always recognized in the administration of the common law of the land, the fundamental principles of that religion must continue to be recognized in the same cases and to the same extent as formerly."

Judge Gallagher
Baer v. Kolmorgen
The Supreme Court of New York

"Much has been written in recent years...to "a wall of separation between church and State." ...It has received so much attention that one would almost think at times that it is to be found somewhere in our Constitution."

Justice Potter Stewart

"I think that the Court's task, in this as in all areas of constitutional adjudication, is not responsibly aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the "wall of separation," a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution."

Justice William Rehnquist
Wallace v. Jafree 1985

"It is impossible to build sound consitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of Constitutional history... The establishment clause had been expressly freighted with Jefferson's misleading metaphor for nearly forty years... There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the framers intended to build a wall of separation [between church and state]... The recent court decisions are in no way based on either the language or intent of the framers."

Justice William Rehnquist

"But the greatest injury of the "wall" notion is its mischievous diversion of judges from the actual intentions of the drafters of the Bill of Rights... The "wall of separation between church and State" is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."

—U.S. Supreme Court, 1811—
The People v. Ruggles
Justice James Kent delivered the Court's opinion:

"The defendant was indicted... in December, 1810, for that he did, on the 2nd day of September, 1810... wickedly, maliciously, and blasphemously, utter, and with a loud voice publish, in the presence of hearing of divers good and Christian people, of and concerning the Christian religion, and of and concerning Jesus Christ, the false, scandalous, malicious, wicked and blasphemous words following: "Jesus Christ is a bastard, and his mother must be a whore", in contempt of the Christian religion... the defendant was tried and found guilty, and was sentenced by the court to be imprisoned for three months, and to pay a fine of $500.

Such words uttered with such a disposition were an offense at common law. In Taylor's case the defendant was convicted upon information of speaking similar words, and the Court... said that Christianity was parcel of the law, and to cast contumelious reproaches upon it, tended to weaken the foundation of moral obligation, and the efficacy of oaths.

And in the case of Rex vs. Woolston's, on a like conviction, the Court said... that whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government... the authorities show that blasphemy against God and... profane ridicule of Christ or the Holy Scriptures (which are equally treated as blasphemy), are offenses punishable at common law, rather uttered by words or writings... because it tends to corrupt the morals of the people, and to destroy good order.

Such offenses have always been considered independent of any religious establishment or the rights of the Church. They are treated as affecting the essential interest of civil society...

We stand equally in need, now as formerly, of all the moral discipline, and of those principles of virtue, which help to bind society together.

The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only... impious, but... is a gross violation of decency and good order.

Nothing could be more injurious to the tender morals of the young, then to declare such profanity lawful...

The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and descent discussions on any religious subject, is granted and secured; but to revile... the religion professed by almost the whole community, is an abuse of that right...

We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines of worship of those impostors [other religions]...

[We are] people whose manners are refined and whose morals has been elevated and inspired with a more enlarged benevolence, by means of the Christian religion. Though the Constitution has discarded religious establishments, it does not forbid judicial cognizance of those offenses against religion and morality which have no reference to any such establishment...

This [constitutional] declaration (noble and magnanimous as it is, when duly understood) never meant to withdraw religion in general, and with it the best sanctions of moral and social obligation from all consideration and notice of Law...

To construe it as breaking down the common law barriers against licentious, wanton, and impious attacks upon Christianity itself, would be an enormous perversion of its meaning...

Christianity in its enlarged sense, as a religion revealed and taught in the Bible, is part and parcel of the law of the land...

Nor are we bound by any expression of the Constitution, as some has strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet and the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that we are a Christian people, and the morality of this country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of these impostors...

The Court is accordingly of the opinion that the judgment... must be affirmed."

—U. S. Supreme Court, 1892—
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States

"No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.

The commission to Christopher Columbus.... "that it is hoped that by God's assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered..."

The first colonial grant made to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584.... and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided that they "be not against the true Christian faith..."

The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606.... commenced the grant in these words: "...in propagating of Christian Religion to such People as yet live in Darkness..."

Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that colony.... in 1609 and 1611; and the same is true of the various charters granted to the other colonies. In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant. The celebrated compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower, 1620, recites; "Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith... a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia..."

The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1638-1639, commence with this declaration: "...And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union... there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God...to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess...of the said gospel [which] is now practiced amongst us."

In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701 it is recited: "...no people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyment of civil liberties, if abridged of... their religious profession and worship..."

Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of Divine in human affairs in these words:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights... appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions... And for the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

...We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth... because of a general recognition of this truth [that we are a Christian nation], the question has seldom been presented to the courts...

There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. Those are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons; they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people.

While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, it was decided that, Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law... not Christianity with an established church.... but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.

And in The People v. Ruggles, Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said:

"The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice... We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors [other religions]."

And in the famous Case of Vidal v. Girard's Executors, this Court... observed:

"It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law..."

If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs and its society, we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, " In the name of God, amen"; the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe.

These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation...We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth.

The happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality.

Religion, morality, and knowledge [are] necessary to government, the preservation of liberty, and the happiness of mankind."

—U.S. Supreme Court, 1931—
U.S. vs. Macintosh

"We are a Christian people... and acknowledge with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God."

—U. S. Supreme Court, 1952—
Zorach v. Clauson

"The First Amendment, however, does not say that in every respect there shall be a separation of Church and State. Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concert or union or dependency one on the other.

That is the common sense of the matter. Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other—hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly...

Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups. Policemen who helped parishioners into places of worship would violate the Constitution. Prayers in our legislative halls; the appeals to the Almighty in the messages of the Chief Executive; the proclamation making Thanksgiving Day a holiday; "so help me God" in our courtroom oaths—these and all other references to the Almighty that run through our laws, or public rituals, our ceremonies, would be flouting the First Amendment. A fastidious atheist or agnostic could even object to the supplication with which the Court opens each session: God save the United States and this Honorable Court.

We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being... When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions.

For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe...

We find no constitutional requirement making it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weighed against the efforts to widen the scope of religious influence. The government must remain neutral when it comes to competition between sects...

We cannot read into the Bill of Rights such a philosophy of hostility to religion."

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger
Citing Justice Douglas' Zorach v. Clauson opinion in the 1984 decision of Lynch v Donnelly:

"That neither the draftsmen of the Constitution, who were Members of the First Congress, nor the First Congress itself, saw any establishment problem in employing Chaplains to offer daily prayers in the Congress is a striking example of the accommodation of religious beliefs intended by the Framers...

...It would be ironic if the inclusion of the creche in the display, as part of a celebration of an event acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries, would so 'taint' the exhibition as to render it violative of the Establishment Clause...

To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools, and while Congress and state legislatures open public sessions with prayers, would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation's history and this Court's holdings...

A significant example of the contemporaneous understanding of that Clause is found in the events of the first week of the First Session of the First Congress in 1789. In the very week that Congress approved the Establishment Clause as part of the Bill of Rights for submission to the states, it enacted legislation providing for paid Chaplains for the House and Senate...

... It is clear that neither the 17 draftsmen of the Constitution who were Members of the First Congress, nor the Congress of 1789, saw any establishment problem in the employment of congressional Chaplains to offer daily prayers in the Congress, a practice that has continued for nearly two centuries. It would be difficult to identify a more striking example of the accommodation of religious belief intended by the Framers...

Our history is replete with official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance in deliberations and pronouncements of the Founding Fathers and contemporary leaders. Beginning in the early colonial period long before Independence, a day of Thanksgiving was celebrated as a religious holiday to give thanks for the bounties of Nature as gifts from God. President Washington and his successors proclaimed Thanksgiving, with all its religious overtones, a day of national celebration and Congress made it a National Holiday more than a century ago...

...That holiday has not lost its theme of expressing thanks for Divine aid any more than has Christmas lost its religious significance...

Executive Orders and other official announcements of Presidents and of the Congress have proclaimed both Christmas and Thanksgiving National Holidays in religious terms. And, by Acts of Congress, it has long been the practice that federal employees are released from duties on these National Holidays, while being paid from the same public revenues that provide the compensation of the Chaplains of the Senate and the House and the military services...

Thus, it is clear that Government has long recognized -- indeed it has subsidized -- holidays with religious significance. Other examples of reference to our religious heritage are found in the statutorily prescribed national motto 'In God We Trust,' which Congress and the President mandated for our currency, and in the language 'One nation under God,' as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. That pledge is recited by many thousands of public school children -- and adults -- every year. Art galleries supported by public revenues display religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries, predominantly inspired by one religious faith.

...The National Gallery in Washington, maintained with Government support, for example, has long exhibited masterpieces with religious messages, notably the Last Supper, and paintings depicting the Birth of Christ, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, among many others with explicit Christian themes and messages. The very chamber in which oral arguments on this case were heard is decorated with a notable and permanent -- not seasonal -- symbol of religion: Moses with the Ten Commandments. Congress has long provided chapels in the Capitol for religious worship and meditation. There are countless other illustrations of the Government's acknowledgment of our religious heritage and governmental sponsorship of graphic manifestations of that heritage...

Congress has directed the President to proclaim a National Day of Prayer each year 'on which (day) the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.' Our Presidents have repeatedly issued such Proclamations. Presidential Proclamations and messages have also issued to commemorate Jewish Heritage Week, Presidential Proclamation No. 4844, 3 CFR 30 (1982), and the Jewish High Holy Days, 17 Weekly Comp. of Pres. Doc. 1058 (1981)...

One cannot look at even this brief resume without finding that our history is pervaded by expressions of religious beliefs such as are found in Zorach. Through this accommodation, as Justice Douglas observed, governmental action has 'follow[ed] the best of our traditions' and 'respect[ed] the religious nature of our people.'"

Justice Anthony Kennedy
Wrote in Town of Greece v. Galloway, May 5, 2014:

"In Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U. S. 783, the Court found no First Amendment violation in the Nebraska Legislature's practice of opening its sessions with a prayer delivered by a chaplain paid from state funds. The decision concluded that legislative prayer, while religious in nature, has long been understood as compatible with the Establishment Clause. As practiced by Congress since the framing of the Constitution, legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society... Legislative invocations are compatible with the Establishment Clause... The First Congress made it an early item of business to appoint and pay official chaplains, and both the House and Senate have maintained the office virtually uninterrupted since that time... That the First Congress provided for the appointment of chaplains only days after approving language for the First Amendment demonstrates that the Framers considered legislative prayer a benign acknowledgment of religion's role in society... In the 1850's, the judiciary committees in both the House and Senate reevaluated the practice of official chaplaincies after receiving petitions to abolish the office. The committees concluded that the office posed no threat of an establishment ..."

Justice Anthony Kennedy was referring to the House Judiciary Committee Report of Congressman James Meacham of Vermont, March 27, 1854:

"At the adoption of the Constitution, we believe every State -- certainly ten of the thirteen -- provided as regularly for the support of the Church as for the support of the Government."

Justice Kennedy continued in Greece v. Galloway:

"Any test the Court adopts must acknowledge a practice that was accepted by the Framers and has withstood the critical scrutiny of time and political change... An insistence on nonsectarian or ecumenical prayer as a single, fixed standard is not consistent with the tradition of legislative prayer outlined in the Court's cases... The Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes of the sort respondents find objectionable... One of the Senate's first chaplains, the Rev. William White, gave prayers in a series that included the Lord's Prayer, the Collect for Ash Wednesday, prayers for peace and grace, a general thanksgiving, St. Chrysostom's Prayer, and a prayer seeking 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ... The decidedly Christian nature of these prayers must not be dismissed as the relic of a time when our Nation was less pluralistic than it is today... The Court instructed that the 'content of the prayer is not of concern to judges'... To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town's current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact... It would be but a few steps removed from that prohibition for legislatures to require chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere... Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy... See Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 590 (1992) ('The suggestion that government may establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds strikes us as a contradiction that cannot be accepted'); Schempp, 374 U. S., at 306 (Goldberg, J., concurring) (arguing that 'untutored devotion to the concept of neutrality' must not lead to 'a brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular')... The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech... While these prayers vary in their degree of religiosity, they often seek peace for the Nation, wisdom for its lawmakers, and justice for its people, values that count as universal and that are embodied not only in religious traditions, but in our founding documents and laws... The first prayer delivered to the Continental Congress by the Rev. Jacob Duché on Sept. 7, 1774, provides an example:

'Be Thou present O God of Wisdom and direct the counsel of this Honorable Assembly; enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations; that the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that Order, Harmony, and Peace be effectually restored, and the Truth and Justice, Religion and Piety, prevail and flourish among the people. Preserve the health of their bodies, and the vigor of their minds, shower down on them, and the millions they here represent, such temporal Blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting Glory in the world to come.

All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Saviour, Amen'."

Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded the Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, May 5, 2014:

"As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of 'God save the United States and this honorable Court' at the opening of this Court's sessions... It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition... Their purpose is largely to accommodate the spiritual needs of lawmakers and connect them to a tradition dating to the time of the Framers... Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs."

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