- Engel v Vitale, which prohibited mandatory prayer in public schools.These, along with other decisions (many of which promoted federal supremacy or gave special privileges to criminals) have left a lasting bitter taste on the palette of most on the right. After all, many of these decisions have served as precedents for the establishment of even greater federal authority and more activism on the part of the Judicial branch of government.
- Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down a state law designed to limit access to contraception.
- Reynolds v. Sims, which essentially promoted federal authority over that of the state on matters of representation.
Despite this apparent hostility to Warren, there is one topic on which he and conservatives can find common ground. While attending a prayer breakfast in Washington D.C., Justice Warren delivered a speech in which he lauded America's unique Christian origin and heritage. Time Magazine was there to capture the Chief Justice's words:
I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the Spirit of our Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay, or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present. A Christian government of Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their express belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under the law, and the reservation of power to the people. I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.When we examine the three documents referenced by Justice Warren (the first Charter of Virginia, the Charter of Massachusetts Bay and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut), we discover that Warren wasn't wrong. The Virginia Charter makes clear that one of its primary goals was, "the propagating of the Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God." The Massachusetts Bay Charter has a similar goal, namely to bring "the Natives of the Country, to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true God and Savior of Mankind, and the Christian Faith, which is...the principal end of this Plantation." And finally from the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, we read that one of its main goals was, "to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus, which we now profess."
Naturally we should point out that these same colonies would go on to debate the specifics of what it meant to be a Christian, and whose brand of Christianity was THE true interpretation of Jesus' divine message. Images of Ann Hutchinson squaring off with John Winthrop, or the Danbury Baptists appealing to the likes of the heathen Thomas Jefferson are too obvious to ignore. That being said, I believe Justice Warren's message rings clear. Despite the arguments over whose Christianity is THE American Christianity, the cultural, social and spiritual fabric of what became the United States is undeniably Christian in origin. Benjamin Franklin's appeal to a collective "public religion" (a sort of shared Christian "Wi-Fi" network) seems to fit best. Different faiths may access the shared Wi-Fi for different purposes, but ultimately they are sharing the same network.