The Separation of Church and State

By Darien A. McWhirter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER four
Symbols of Separation

DISCUSSION

The last two chapters focused on the extent to which governments establish religion by allowing prayer in public schools or by providing support for private religious schools. Governments can do other things that might be seen as providing support for religion in general, or for particular religious sects. Over the course of the last century, a number of Supreme Court decisions have examined this area.


RUNNING FREIGHT TRAINS ON SUNDAY

The case of Hennington v. Georgia was decided in 1896. At that time, in the state of Georgia it was illegal to run a freight train on Sunday, even if the train was simply passing through the state. The railroads argued that this law was unconstitutional because it interfered with interstate commerce, which should be subject to federal regulations, not state laws.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices did not agree. It had been illegal to work on Sunday in Georgia since 1762, and the justices saw the law prohibiting the running of freight trains as simply an extension of that principle. The Court decided that a state should have the power to declare a uniform day of rest for its citizens, even for those citizens who worked on the railroad. The issue of whether or not the Establishment Clause was violated was not explicitly raised in this case.

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