Obscure Citation:
'Holy Trinity v. U.S.'
Andrew O. Lutes (with Rob Boston)

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: Andrew O. Lutes
Cc: "Rob Boston" <boston@au.org>
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Saturday, August 26, 2000 5:02 PM

Proving that something does exist is easy; proving that something does not exist is sometimes next to impossible. Such was the case with the alleged Madison quote about "The Ten Commandments of God," so a lot of work went into trying to find these sentiments in the known body of Madison's writings. The editors of his papers found nothing even remotely resembling these sentiments, and noted that they go against everything else that he is known to have said.

Proving that a certain Supreme Court case did not contain certain language should be much easier. I cannot find "Holy Trinity v. United States" in the Supreme Court search engine. When I enter either of the strings "holy" or "trinity" absolutely nothing comes up. This does not mean the case itself does not exist, but the Oyez engine is very thorough in its documentation of Supreme Court cases.

Rob Boston, in the sidebar to his article "Consumer Alert WallBuilders' Shoddy Workmanship" called "David Barton's 'Questionable Quotes'," lists several alleged quotations that Barton later retracted -- under tremendous pressure, of course. We can assume by Barton's character (his history of lacking candor) that he might easily have continued using them had the outcry from historians and the public not been so fierce. Barton has done very little to promote the fact that he has been caught fabricating wild lies about United States history in order to further his agenda of exploiting America's Evangelical Christian communities by being the poster child of the "Christian Nation" revisionist movement.

Most of these quotes Barton called "questionable" but two of them were declared by Barton to be "false." The one is the "Holy Trinity v. United States" case and the other is the "Ten Commandments of God" quip attributed to James Madison -- which has been thoroughly researched by the editors of James Madison's Papers. This is unfortunate because the phony Madison quote has been read into the Congressional Record on at least two occasions (see the Madison section of our Big List of Quotes), one time over a year after Barton retracted the quote and called it "false."

For a man of Barton's character to go this far in retracting the "Holy Trinity" quote would mean one of three things to me: (1) either "Holy Trinity v. United States" does not exist [it does: see below]; or (2) if it does exist, a search of the case for this language comes up empty; or (3) if it contains the language in question, Barton retracted as "false" something that is, in fact, true, placing his scholarship in further question.

Rob Boston, author of the above mentioned article, can be reached at boston@au.org and he would probably gladly mail you a photocopy of Barton's retraction. He sent me a copy in 1997 when I first posted and reprinted his article.

Meanwhile, the Joint Baptist Committee has this to say about "Holy Trinity":


Holy Trinity involved the legality of a contract to hire a minister from England under an act of Congress limiting immigration. The statement about a "Christian nation" is dicta -- that is, it is a gratuitous statement that is not essential to the Court's holding. The Court had already decided the issue before venturing its opinion as to the religious character of the country. The so-called "87 precedents" were not case decisions but mainly examples of our undisputed religious roots from pre-Constitutional documents, historical practice, colonial charters and the like.


Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule
Added: March 3, 2001

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.