T hroughout history there are what are known as “defining moments.” These are events that can mold and shape the destiny of a people. In the United States there have been many such moments. Whether it is the framing of the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Supreme Court decision to allow abortions, our nation has been profoundly effected by its moral pronouncements. In a very real sense many such rulings constitute defining moments in our nation's history.
Perhaps the greatest single decision effecting America and its culture was rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962. In this decision, the court determined that the Union Free School District No. 9 in Hyde Park, New York had violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it directed the Districts' principals to cause the following prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day. "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country." Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).
With this decision the majority of the unelected justices who sat on the High Court
reversed nearly two centuries of legislative and judicial pronouncements not to mention several longstanding traditions that played such a significant role in American life. So appalling was the court’s ruling that Representative Frank Becker of North Carolina called it “the most tragic decision in the history of the United States.” Senator Sam Ervin characterized it this way. “I should like to ask whether we would be far wrong in saying that in this decision the Supreme Court has held that God is unconstitutional and for that reason we must be segregated against Him.”
Since Engle v Vitale numerous rulings by the court have affirmed that any expression of faith on public property or by employees of the state now poses a potential threat to our liberties and is in violation of the constitution. Consider just a few examples.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned school-directed recital of the Lord's Prayer and reading of Bible passages as part of "devotional exercises" in public schools. Abington School Dist. V. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
The U.S. Supreme Court banned the posting of the Ten Commandments on public school classroom walls. Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980).
The U.S. Supreme Court banned observance of "daily moments of silence" from public schools when students were encouraged to pray during the silent periods. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985).
The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed prayers led by members of the clergy at public school graduation ceremonies. Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)
The U.S. Supreme Court banned student-led pre-game prayers at public high school football games. Santa fe independent school District v. Doe, certiorari to the United States court of appeals for the fifth circuit No. 99-62. Argued March 29, 2000--Decided June 19, 2000.
It is interesting that despite the proliferation of legal battles attempting to expunge the God of the Bible from the public square, a powerful truth still lingers. The reality is that since the inception of this nation faith has played a great part in forming our laws and our values. Although secularists try to insist that the founding fathers built a government that was values neutral when it came to religion; this simply is not the case. To illustrate this point consider the words expressed by both the legislative and judicial branches of our government prior to the tragedy of 1962.
“Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament be read and taught as a divine revelation in the school? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?” Vidal v Girard's Executors, 2 How. 127 (1844) -
“The happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality.” Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, The United States Supreme Court, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892)
“Religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty, and the happiness of mankind.” Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, The United States Supreme Court, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892)
“Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It's impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian... 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... we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth... 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.” Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, The United States Supreme Court, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892)
"It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be permanent where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape." Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story
In V. Watkins v. Torso, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Secular Humanism is a religion.
Observations by the Legislative Branch
“Religion must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions.” House Judiciary Committee, 1854
“The great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of gospel of Jesus Christ.” House Judiciary Committee, 1854
"Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation of people. Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of The United States ... Whereas that renewing our knowledge of, and faith in God through Holy Scriptures can strengthen us as a nation and a people. Now therefore be it resolved ... that the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national "Year of the Bible" in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures."1983 - Oct. 4, 1982,Joint Resolution of Congress.
State Supreme Court Rulings
“The morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of other religions. In people whose manners are refined, and whose morals have been elevated and inspired with a more enlarged benevolence, it is by means of the Christian religion.” People v. Ruggles 8 Johns. R. 290 N.Y. 1811
“Offenses against religion and morality strikes at the root of moral obligation, and weaken the security of the social ties…This First Amendment declaration never meant to withdraw religion. And with it the sanctions of moral and social obligation from all consideration and notice of the law.” People v. Ruggles 8 Johns. R. 290 N.Y. 1811
“Whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government, because it tends to corrupt the morals of the people, and to destroy good order.” People v. Ruggles 8 Johns. R. 290 N.Y. 1811
“The destruction of morality renders the power of the government invalid.” The Commonwealth v Sharpless, 2 Serg & R. 91 (Sup. Ct. Penn. 1815)
“A malicious intention, to vilify the Christian religion and the scriptures, would prove a nursery of vice, a school of preparation to qualify young men for the gallows, and young women for the brothel, and there is not a skeptic of decent manners and good morals, who would not consider such a common nuisance and disgrace.” Updegraph v. Commonwealth, 11 Serg. & Rawle 394 Pa. 1824
“No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country. Christianity is part of the common law. Its foundations are broad and strong and deep. It is the purest system of morality and only stable support of all human laws.” Updegraph v. Commonwealth, 11 Serg. & Rawle 394 Pa. 1824
“Christianity has reference to the principles of right and wrong; It is the foundation of those morals and manners upon which our society is formed; it is their basis. Remove this and they would fall. Morality has grown upon the basis of Christianity.” Charleston v. Benjamin, 2 Strob. 508 (Sup.Ct. SC 1846)
“What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There Certainly is none other. Say that cannot be appealed to, and what would be good morals? The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of pagan immorality.” Charleston v. Benjamin, 2 Strob. 508 (Sup.Ct. SC 1846)
In addition to our nation’s leading jurists and legislators speaking openly for over 150 years concerning the value of faith and its partnership with government, some of the leading legal publications acknowledged that America was a Christian nation.
“…The Christian religion is, of course, recognized by the government, yet not so to draw invidious distinctions between different religious beliefs, etc.; Cooley, Const. 206.” Bouvier's Law Dictionary (1914), “Religion,” p.2865.
Today however, that has all changed. What was once a nation that cherished its faith has now become one that feels obligated to protect others from it. In the words of Justice John Paul Stevens: "School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are non adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,"
Justice Stevens’ words would be funny if they weren’t so serious. Every single day in public schools across the country religious children are given just such messages through curricula. They are taught moral relativism in direct contradiction to their faith. They are taught they are not created in the very image of God Himself, but rather are the result of chance mutations over tens of millions of years. In a thousand ways young Christian children are given the message that they are outsiders and not full members of the political community. All this in the name of sensitivity. And where has it gotten us?
Today, we have become a society hell bent on desecrating everything our founding fathers viewed as sacred. Our contemporary opinions regarding sex, marriage, family, honesty, integrity, culture and faith would have astonished earlier generations. These issues have been redefined by the proponents of a “new morality” - a morality that has decided that God should not be a part of its moral pronouncements.
The tragedy to all of this is that there once was a time when most Americans navigated their lives around a fixed moral standard - a code of right and wrong. For most, this was the Bible. Stealing was wrong because God said, “You shall not steal.” Lying was wrong because God said, “You shall not bear false witness.” Killing broke the sixth commandment and adultery the seventh.
If you were to read an early 20th century grammar school textbook, you would find numerous references to God, Christianity, and the Bible. And each was treated with great deference and respect.
Today, however, our society demands that all moral standards constantly adjust their view to conform to society’s conduct. As a result of this thinking, what we once thought as abhorrent moral behavior is now regarded as respectable and even virtuous.
The result of this thinking can be seen in every strata of society. Students cheat in school without any sense of guilt. Adults cheat in business because “that’s the way it is.” Marketing firms cheat and advertisers are brazen in their misrepresentation of products. Politicians cheat in an attempt to influence elections. Clergymen cheat to control their flocks.
The morality of today claims to all who will hear: cheating is ok as long as you have a reason for it and you don’t get caught. This is the same logic used by psychopaths, rapists, extortioners, drug pushers, and every other kind of lowlife our world has produced. And it possesses about the same moral weight. Sadly, this belief is embraced by an entire generation.
The great tragedy of society today is that it is not afraid to break with the moral conventions of prior generations. Conventions held as sacred because of their origin (the Bible). Today, we make our own rules - define our own moral behavior and values. We are the masters of our own spiritual course. And where has it taken us? Has it made us better? Has it made us more just? One doesn’t have to look hard for the answer to these questions.
The apostle Paul once revealed that if God’s people remove Him from their lives and try to navigate their own moral course, they will wind up making judgements that can only be described as depraved (Ro. 1:28-32). Today, Paul’s words couldn’t ring more true. While our children are being protected from God and His word they are being taught that every sexual perversion is the moral equivalent of traditional relationships. They are being taught that Christianity is not any better than witchcraft. That defiance to parents is a right that should be exercised. Today our children can tell you the words to a hundred vulgar song lyrics, but they can’t recite Ten Commandments. And why should they? Our leaders have sent the signal and America’s kids have marched in lockstep in agreement. After all if God isn’t good enough for our schools why should he be good enough for anything?
And Justice For All