The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Terrett v Taylor

Terrett v Taylor, 9 Cr. 43 (1815) U.S. Supreme Court was the first case to reach Supreme Court in the realm of church/state. The decision written by Joseph Story
Research by Jim Allison

This was the very first Church and State case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The case had its roots in the disestablishment of the Episcopal Church in Virginia. Virginia established its independence in 1776, writing a constitution and establishing its own government. During that time the legislature passed a law ensuring that all lands then held by the Anglican church remained its property.

In 1801, as the final step in disestablishment of religion in Virginia, the legislature declared that the 1776 law was inconsistent with the state's constitution, etc. and was therefore void.

In Terrett v Taylor, Justice Joseph Story held the 1801 law to be null and void.

This case was not decided under portions of the Federal Constitution or Bill of Rights. It was based on general principles of law which protect all corporations.

See Church and State in the United States (Revised one-volume Edition) by Anson Phelps Stokes (1874- 1958) and Leo Pfeffer (1910-1993), Harper & Row, Publishers N.Y. (1964) pp 104-05

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