Religious Liberty
An American Heritage

The Bible is the Foundation of the Nation’s Law

In October, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James W. Smith, Jr. was invited to share some thoughts in a business law class at Delta State University (DSU) utilizing his skills as a former community college teacher. Since Smith was already going to be in town for a speech at the Cleveland Rotary Club noon meeting, Dr. Clint Wood, a DSU professor of business law, invited him to his class.

Justice Smith presented many points of historical interest including the following:

*Eighty-seven of the founding fathers of this nation took classes under Dr. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who was later elected President of what would become Princeton University.

*One of the classes these early American leaders took under Witherspoon focused on the principles of Hebrew government.

*"These men were absolutely governed by a code of conduct," said Smith.

*"There have been 30,000 laws written to enforce the Ten Commandments. A just society is built on Biblical principles, but it can’t even post the Ten Commandments," said Smith as he made another point.

Smith was firm when he stated that "America was founded by Christians," on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He went on to say that "freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. There is no such thing as a trickle-down effect. You can’t remove God from the government. Freedom and justice needs faith as its preamble." He continued, "Thank God that He gave us a free mind — an independent mind."

Also, when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, "I’m an originist in interpreting the Constitution. Justices [Anthony] Scalia, [Clarence] Thomas and [William] Rhenquist are originists when it comes to the Constitution. You interpret the law. You don’t make the law. We shouldn’t allow our personal view to invade our legal views," the judge said to the class.

Smith pointed out that on U.S. Supreme Court rulings about prayer in the schools and other church and state issues from the founding of the nation until 1947, the court did not define the separation issue as the court does today.

However, a 1947 court ruling by the Supreme Court changed it. He said, "The Constitution didn’t change. The laws didn’t change. What changed? The judges’ views changed. One judge’s view and four other judges’ views changed [the] law. That’s what happened."

(David Lush, "Laws’ roots often from Bible: Justice Smith, The Bolivar Commercial, October 6, 2000)

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