First Amendment 101 [Contents]

The Supreme Court's First Amendment Class

In Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), which ruled the State of Maryland's generic test oath "unconstitutional," the Court gave a list of cases which set out the basic framework of the doctrine of the "separation of church and state." This footnote is a good place to begin your legal education. If you understand these key cases, you can understand the Court's complex First Amendment jurisprudence, the historical evolution of the doctrine of "the separation of church and state," and why our culture is up to its chin in sewage. I have added a couple of cases to the list; here is the doorway to legal enlightenment:

Twenty years after Torcaso, the Court ruled that a copy of the Ten Commandments, purchased with private funds, could not be posted in public school classrooms. One section of the statute ruled "unconstitutional" read:

(2) In small print below the last commandment shall appear a notation concerning the purpose of the display, as follows: "The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States."

The hideous anti-Christian ruling (Stone v. Graham, 1980) in this case certainly rests on the shoulders of Torcaso, but relied more explicitly on several cases handed down after Torcaso. These cases include:

The reasoning in the Stone case was not discarded when the Court allowed the Nebraska Legislature to continue opening legislative sessions with prayer, a practice which is older than the state itself:

Those prayers were depleted of explicit Christian content and were consistent with "the American civil religion."

In addition to these cases, there are a few cases which are of direct relevance to the issue of Test Oaths.

Here is a survey of these important cases.