is impossible to build sound constitutional
doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of
Constitutional history. … The establishment
clause had been expressly freighted with
Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly forty
William Orville Douglas was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 36 years, after teaching law at Yale and Columbia University. In the 1952 case of Zorach v. Clauson, Justice William Douglas asserted: “The First Amendment… does not say that in every respect there shall be a separation of Church and State…. Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other.” Justice Douglas continued: “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being…. When the state encourages religious instruction… it follows the best of our traditions.” William Orville Douglas, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
When the First Amendment was passed it only had two purposes. The first purpose was that there would be no established, national church for the united thirteen states. To say it another way: there would be no “Church of the United States.” James Madison (1751-1836) clearly articulated this concept of separation when explaining the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty. He said that the First Amendment to the Constitution was prompted because “the people feared one sect might obtain a preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform.”116
Nevertheless, a number of the individual states had state churches, and even that was not considered in conflict with the First Amendment. “At the outbreak of the American Revolution, nine of the thirteen colonies had conferred special benefits upon one church to the exclusion of others.”117 “In all but one of the thirteen states, the states taxed the people to support the preaching of the gospel and to build churches.”118 “it was not until 1798 that the Virginia legislature repealed all its laws supporting churches.”119 “In Massachusetts the Massachusetts Constitution was not amended until 1853 to eliminate the tax-supported church provosions.”120
The second purpose of the First Amendment was the very opposite from what is being made of it today. It states expressly that government should not impede or interfere with the free practice of religion.
Those were the two purposes of the First Amendment as it was written.
As Justice Douglas wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in the United States v. Ballard case in 1944:
The First Amendment has a dual aspect. It not only “forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship” but also “safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion.”
116 Edward Corwin, The Supreme Court as National School Board, Law and Contemporary Problems, 14, (1949), pp. 3, 11-12.
117 Herbert W. Titus, Professor of Law, O. W. Coburn School of Law, Education, Caesar’s or God’s: A Constitutional Question of Jurisdiction
Schaeffer, F. A. (1996, c1982). The complete works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian worldview. Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books.
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