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63 Alb. L. Rev. 427 (1999-2000)
Justice David Josiah Brewer and the Christian Nation Maxim

handle is hein.journals/albany63 and id is 439 raw text is: JUSTICE DAVID JOSIAH BREWER AND THE CHRISTIAN
NATION MAXIM
Steven K Green'
One of the more controversial yet least understood pronounce-
ments by the United States Supreme Court is its 1892 declaration
that the United States is a Christian nation.1 The statement, ap-
pearing in an otherwise obscure decision interpreting an immigra-
tion law, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States,2 was drafted
by Justice David Josiah Brewer, a jurist known for his outspoken
religious and social views.3 For adherents of minority religious
faiths and others from non-Christian traditions, this statement rep-
resents a low-point in church-state jurisprudence and the struggle
for religious equality.4       Not surprisingly, the      declaration    has
roundly been criticized by scholars and even members of the Court
itself.5 Judges and commentators have panned the Christian na-
tion pronouncement as arrogant and anachronistic, an aberra-
* The author is General Counsel and Director of Policy for Americans United for Separa-
tion of Church and State. He is considered one of the country's foremost experts on church-
state law and has been involved in numerous church-state cases before the United States
Supreme Court since joining Americans United in 1992. B.A., Texas Christian University;
J.D., University of Texas; M.A., Ph.D, University of North Carolina; Duke University (divin-
ity school). Licensed to practice law in the states of Alaska, Maryland, Minnesota and Texas,
as well as before the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Green also served as a misdemeanor
court judge in Alaska and as a visiting professor at Vermont Law School. He is the author of
numerous party and friend-of-the-court briefs in the federal and state courts, seven law re-
view articles on church-state issues and STARS IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONSTELLATION, an
annotation on state constitutional provisions regarding religious liberty.
I Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 471 (1892).
2 143 U.S. 457, 471 (1892).
3 See MICHAEL J. BRODHEAD, DAVID J. BREWER: THE LIFE OF A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
1837-1910, 128-29 (1994) (analyzing the influence of Brewer's religious convictions on his po-
litical and social beliefs).
4 MORTON BORDEN, JEWS, TURKS, AND INFIDELS 125-29 (1984) (noting the contradiction
of American leaders who claimed that the United States was both a country of religious
equality and a Christian nation).
5 See, e.g., Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 717-18 (1984) (Brennan, J., dissenting) (criti-
cizing the suggestion that the United States was a Christian nation); BORDEN (noting the
hypocrisy of nineteenth century church-state separation.

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