Publication Date

Spring 2012


Helms School of Government


Government: Pre-Law

Primary Subject Area



seperation church state, hugo black, everson, religion government, judicial activism


Law | Religion Law


Justice Hugo Black and his 1947 opinion in Everson v. Board of Education. In this opinion, Justice Black quoted Thomas Jefferson’s term “wall of separation” and further added his own opinion that the wall must be high and impregnable. This meant that from that day forward the separation of church and state would be applied to all aspects of government not just the federal level. Several key factors in Justice Black’s background inclined the Justice to rule unfavorably against religion. First, it is a known fact that Justice Black was a member of the KKK, an organization that was known to be particularly bigoted towards Catholics. Second, Justice Black believed Paul Blanshard’s writings concerning the Catholic Church and shared his mistrust of the Catholic Church. Finally, at the time of his opinion, Justice Black was not a practicing Christian and the evidence shows that the Justice did not believe in the supernatural aspects of Christianity. This evidence supports a conclusion that Justice Black was prejudiced against religion in his decision in Everson v. Board of Education and engaged in judicial activism.

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