Monday, January 09, 2006

Idiot Pat Robertson

Normally, I would be more upset about what I heard today, but I have to consider the source -- it was Pat Robertson. Still, people like my ex-mother-in-law (or is that mother-out-law) watches and believes this man's every word.

On the "700 Club" today, Robertson said that the Everson case, which first strongly articulated the concept of the separation of church and state (though it had been hinted at in the Reynolds case barring Mormon polygamy), was decided because of Hugo Black's anti-Catholicism. Robertson made this claim based on the fact that Black had been a former member of the KKK.

In the Everson case, a New Jersey law permitted local school boards to pay transportation costs to and from private schools, including parochial schools. One citizen, Arch Everson, filed a lawsuit alleging these payments violated both the New Jersey state constitution and the First Amendment of the federal Constitution. After losing his case in the New Jersey courts, Everson appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments were heard on November 20, 1946 and the case was decided on February 10, 1947.

The case was decided by a 5-4 vote. That vote is misleading, however. The Court, in the majority opinion authored by Justice Black, ruled that the state law was constitutionally permissible. Yet, the majority opinion also held:

"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 form 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. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" 330 U.S. 1, 15-16.

Based on the above, one would think that the logical outcome would be to strike down the New Jersey law as going around that wall of separation between church and state. That's what the dissenters felt. They did not argue with the concept of the separation of church and state, the application of the concept to the New Jersey law.

With the Alito nomination hearings beginning today, it would be nice to not misinform viewers like Robertson did this morning.


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