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The Confederate Lawyer
September 10, 2009

Keeping Alive the Memory of American Public Religion
by Charles G. Mills

GLEN COVE, NY — Revolutionaries and totalitarians always try to erase the people’s link to the past. Hitler discontinued the teaching of Latin in the German schools. Stalin renamed the second largest city in Russia because it was named for Saint Peter. Henry VIII despoiled the English churches of their relics, including the incorrupt bodies of saints, and Cromwell whitewashed over all the murals in the churches. During the Spanish Civil War, the communists destroyed the body of Saint Louis Bertrand, which had been miraculously uncorrupted after over 350 years. The French were particularly malicious in their determination to erase all public signs that France is a Catholic country. It is still illegal in France for civil servants to wear small crosses on chains around their necks at work.

In recent years, the youth of America have been bombarded with lies designed to deprive them of true knowledge of our country’s past. Most Americans today falsely believe that the Constitution says that there shall be separation of church and state. Few realize that the prohibitions on such things as school prayer only came about recently and that religion used to be an important part of public life. A replacement of history by politically correct propaganda is made easier by our dismal system of education. Ignorance and stupidity are no longer bars to a college education, and few college graduates can say 50 intelligent words about the history of religion in America. We need to correct this situation.

The United States were created out of 13 very different colonies. The largest of these, Virginia, was the most important in the Southern region, a heavily Protestant region that was also home to significant and influential pockets of Catholicism and Judaism. The new state with the largest non-slave population — Massachusetts — was the most important in the four New England states. Three of these states had anti-Catholic laws, and two had established state churches and legal systems quite hostile to all other churches, even the Church of England. Between New England and Virginia, the Middle Atlantic states were home to many different denominations of Protestants, as well as Catholics, Quakers, and Jews. One of these states was founded by Catholics and another by Quakers.

Part of the genius of our Constitution is that it was able to accommodate these diverse states and religions. The Bill of Rights forbade Congress to get involved. Congress could not abolish the government churches of Massachusetts and Connecticut, or tell any state how many churches it might recognize. Above all, Congress could not chose a national church or group of national churches.

Early in our history, the Supreme Court held that Pennsylvania could not champion atheism, but the Court allowed considerable room to refrain from promoting Christianity. Later, the Mormons practiced polygamy in Utah and claimed a religious right to do so. The Court rejected this claim several times. The Court often characterized America as Christian, although in context this was never understood to exclude Judaism. Federal money supported a Catholic hospital in the District of Columbia, and Indian Tribal money went to religious schools, all with the approval of the Supreme Court.

In 1947, the Supreme Court changed everything. In effect, the Court re-wrote the Constitution to forbid not only any state help to a particular religion or group of religions, but all state action that preferred religion to irreligion. This ruling gradually led to a prohibition on prayer and the Bible in public schools and to self-corruption by religious colleges to keep federal aid.

We need to make sure that future generations know the whole true story. We must not shy away from teaching them sensitive subjects such as New England intolerance in the early days of the Republic, the split in many churches over slavery, the Pope’s efforts to end the War Between the States, Mormon and Hawaiian polygamy, Supreme Court-imposed communist control of Russian Orthodox churches in America, religious prejudice, and the illegitimate role of the Court in banishing religion from so many public places.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2009 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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