Today marks the 60th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Everson v. Board of Education decision, wherein something unique and, viewed from today's vantage, rather strange happened.
The entire court, while splitting 5-4 on the merits of Everson, came together to enunciate -- unanimously -- the following position on the Establishment Clause of the US Constitition:
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.And there you have it, in stark black and white: The entire US Supreme Court, liberal and conservative alike, in complete agreement that there is, in fact, a "wall of separation" between church and state.
Remember that the next time one of your fundo Xian buddies starts yapping about putting "god" back in government and misrepresenting the "intent of the framers" about whether this is a nation founded on religion.
It's startling -- and alarming -- to realize how far we have drifted away from what used to be settled case law, and how fragile that wall of separation has become with the recent rash of Scalia-clone Supreme Court justices.