The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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The word Religion does not mean Christian.

Excerpts from the Opinion substantiating the verdict in the case, BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CINCINNATI, plaintiff in error, v. MINOR at al. (28 Ohio St. 2ll)

Researched and edited by Jim Allison and Susan Batte


Supreme Court, State of Ohio

December Term,1872

. . . This opinion might well end here. Were the subject of controversy any other branch of instruction in the schools than religion, I have no doubt it might safely end here, and the unanimous opinion of the court thus rendered be satisfactory to all. The case is of peculiar importance, however, in the fact that it touches our religious convictions and prejudices, and threatens to disturb the harmonious working of state government, and particularly of the public schools of the state. I deem not improper, therefore, to consider briefly some of the points and matters so ably and elaborately argued by counsel, although really lying outside of the case proper, or only bearing on it remotely.

The real claim here is, that by "religion," in this clause of the constitution, is meant "Christian religion," and that by "religious denomination" in the same clause is meant "Christian denomination." If this claim is well founded, I do not see how we can consistently avoid giving a like meaning to the same words and their cognates, "worship," "religious society," "sect," "conscience," "religious belief," throughout the entire section. To do so, it will readily be seen, would be to withdraw from every person not of Christian belief the guarantees therein vouchsafed, and to withdraw many of them from Christians themselves. In that sense the clause of Section 7 in question would read as follows:

"Christianity, morality and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws to protect every Christian denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction."

Nor can I see why, in order to be consistent, the concluding clause of section 2 articles 6, should not read as follows:

I do not say that such a reading of the sections in question is literally contended for; and yet I see no fair escape from it, if the word "Christianity," or the words "Christian religion," or "the religion of the Bible," are to be interpolated or substituted for the word "religion," at the place indicated.

If, by this generic word "religion," was really meant "the Christian religion," or "Bible religion," why was it not plainly so written? Surely the subject was of importance enough to justify the pains, and surely it was of interest enough to exclude the supposition that it was written in haste or thoughtlessly slurred over. At the time of adopting our present constitution, this word "religion" had had a place in our old constitution for half a century, which was surely ample time for studying its meaning and effect, in order to make the necessary correction or alteration, so as to render its true meaning definite and certain.. The same word "religion," and in much the same connection is found on the Constitution of United States. The latter constitution, at least, if not our own also, in a sense, speaks to mankind and speaks to the rights of man. Neither the word "Christianity," "Christian," nor "Bible," is to be found in either. When they speak of "religion," they must mean the religion of man, and not the religion of any class of men. When they speak of "all men" having certain rights, they cannot mean merely "all Christian" men.

We are told that this word " religion " must mean "Christian religion," because "Christianity is a part of the "common law of this country," lying behind and above its Constitutions. Those who make this assertion can hardly be serious, and intend the real import of their language. If Christianity is a law of the State, like every other law, it must have a sanction. Adequate penalties must be provided to enforce obedience to all its requirements and precepts. No one seriously contends for any such doctrine in this country, or, I might almost say, in this age of the world. The only foundation -- rather, the only excuse -- for the proposition that Christianity is part of the law of this country, is the fact that it is a Christian country, and that its Constitutions and laws are made by a Christian people.

Board of Education of the City of Cincinnati v. Minor.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CINCINNATI, plaintiff in error, v. MINOR at al. (28 Ohio St. 2ll) Constitutional Law -- Bible in the Public Schools.