Supreme Court Opinion:
The United States is a Christian Nation
David Brewer was born to a family of Congregational missionaries in Izmir, Turkey. His parents, Emilia Ann Hovey Field and Josiah Brewer, returned to the United States in 1838 and settled in Connecticut. He graduated from Albany Law School, Albany, NY in 1858. He was nominated to the US Supreme Court on December 4, 1889.
Justice Brewer was the author of the unanimous opinion of the Court in Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States (143 U.S. 457, 36 L.Ed. 226, 12 S. Ct. 511 February 29, 1892) which ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Church of the Holy Trinity)
The Act of February 26, 1880, "to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia," 23 Stat. 332, c. 164, does not apply to a contract between an alien, residing out of the United States, and a religious society incorporated under the laws of a state, whereby he engages to remove to the United States and to enter into the service of the society as its rector or minister." (Emphasis added)
"Plaintiff in error is a corporation duly organized and incorporated as a religious society under the laws of the State of New York. E. Walpole Warren was, prior to September, 1887, an alien residing in England. In that month the plaintiff in error made a contract with him by which he was to remove to the City of New York and enter into its service as rector and pastor, and in pursuance of such contract, Warren did so remove and enter upon such service. It is claimed by the United States that this contract on the part of the plaintiff in error was forbidden by 23 Stat. 332, c. 164, and an action was commenced to recover the penalty prescribed by that act. The circuit court held that the contract was within the prohibition of the statute, and rendered judgment accordingly, 36 F. 303, and the single question presented for our determination is whether it erred in that conclusion."
Within Justice Brewer's opinion he cited several cases along with language contained in early documents of the founding colonies and America in support of his opinion, and in closing he writes:
"...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." Below are excerpts from that opinion:
There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning. They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. Com., 11 Serg. & R. 394, 400, it was decided that, 'Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; * * * not Christianity with an established church and tithes and spiritual courts, but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.' And in People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290, 294, 295, Chancellor KENT, the great commentator on American law, speaking as chief justice of the supreme court of New York, said: 'The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order. * * * The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right. Nor are we bound by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors.' And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard's Ex'rs, 2 How. 127, 198, this court, while sustaining the will of Mr. Girard, with its provision for the creation of a college into which no minister should be permitted to enter, observed: 'It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania.'
If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, 'In the name of God, amen;' the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing every where under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. 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.
Note: Listed within the complete opinion are many references that bear witness that we are a Christian nation, beginning with Christopher Columbus. The entire opinion can be found at Justia.com.
Sources: Wikipedia; supremejustia.com
Contributed by Kathryn Currier
posted January 8, 2010 (edited 12/12/2020)