Marsh v. Chambers 463 U.S. 783 (1983)

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MARSH v. CHAMBERS 463 U.S. 783 (1983)

A 6–3 Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of legislative chaplaincies as not violating the separation of church and state mandated by the first amendment. Chief Justice warren e. burger for the Court abandoned the three-part test of lemon v. kurtzman (1971) previously used in cases involving the establishment clause and grounded his opinion wholly upon historical custom. Prayers by tax-supported legislative chaplains, traceable to the first continental congress and the very Congress that framed the bill of rights, had become "part of the fabric of our society." Justice john paul stevens, dissenting, asserted that Nebraska's practice of having the same Presbyterian minister as the official chaplain for sixteen years preferred one denomination over others. Justices william j. brennan and thurgood marshall, dissenting, attacked legislative chaplains generally as a form of religious worship sponsored by government to promote and advance religion and entangling the government with religion, contrary to the values implicit in the establishment clause—privacy in religious matters, government neutrality, freedom of conscience, autonomy of religious life, and withdrawal of religion from the political arena.

Leonard W. Levy