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Hugo Black

Birthdate: 27. February 1886
Date of death: 25. September 1971

Hugo Lafayette Black was an American lawyer, politician, and jurist who served as a U.S. Senator from 1927 to 1937 and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. A member of the Democratic Party and a devoted New Dealer, Black endorsed Franklin D. Roosevelt in both the 1932 and 1936 presidential elections. Having gained a reputation in the Senate as a reformer, Black was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Roosevelt and confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 63 to 16 . He was the first of nine Roosevelt nominees to the Court, and he outlasted all except for William O. Douglas.The fifth longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, Black was one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the 20th century. He is noted for his advocacy of a textualist reading of the United States Constitution and of the position that the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights were imposed on the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. During his political career, Black was regarded as a staunch supporter of liberal policies and civil liberties.However, Black wrote the majority opinion in Korematsu v. United States , during World War II, which upheld the Japanese-American internment that had taken place. Black also consistently opposed the doctrine of substantive due process and believed that there was no basis in the words of the Constitution for a right to privacy, voting against finding one in Griswold v. Connecticut .Before he became a senator, Black espoused anti-Catholic views and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, but he resigned in 1925. Years later he said: "Before becoming a Senator I dropped the Klan. I have had nothing to do with it since that time. I abandoned it. I completely discontinued any association with the organization."

„The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say -- that the people's religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office.“

—  Hugo Black

Writing for the court, Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).
Context: Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say -- that the people's religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. Under that Amendment's prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity.

„I read "no law . . . abridging" to mean no law abridging.“

—  Hugo Black

Concurring opinion, Smith v. California, 361 U.S. 147 (1959).
Context: The First Amendment's language leaves no room for inference that abridgments of speech and press can be made just because they are slight. That Amendment provides, in simple words, that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." I read "no law... abridging" to mean no law abridging.

„The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security“

—  Hugo Black

Concurring in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971).
Context: The word 'security' is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security ….

„The Establishment Clause, unlike the Free Exercise Clause, does not depend upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by the enactment of laws which establish an official religion whether those laws operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not. This is not to say, of course, that laws officially prescribing a particular form of religious worship do not involve coercion of such individuals. When the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain. But the purposes underlying the Establishment Clause go much further than that. Its first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion. The history of governmentally established religion, both in England and in this country, showed that whenever government had allied itself with one particular form of religion, the inevitable result had been that it had incurred the hatred, disrespect and even contempt of those who held contrary beliefs. That same history showed that many people had lost their respect for any religion that had relied upon the support of government to spread its faith. The Establishment Clause thus stands as an expression of principle on the part of the Founders of our Constitution that religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its "unhallowed perversion" by a civil magistrate. Another purpose of the Establishment Clause rested upon an awareness of the historical fact that governmentally established religions and religious persecutions go hand in hand. The Founders knew that only a few years after the Book of Common Prayer became the only accepted form of religious services in the established Church of England, an Act of Uniformity was passed to compel all Englishmen to attend those services and to make it a criminal offense to conduct or attend religious gatherings of any other kind-- a law which was consistently flouted by dissenting religious groups in England and which contributed to widespread persecutions of people like John Bunyan who persisted in holding "unlawful [religious] meetings... to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom...."“

—  Hugo Black

And they knew that similar persecutions had received the sanction of law in several of the colonies in this country soon after the establishment of official religions in those colonies. It was in large part to get completely away from this sort of systematic religious persecution that the Founders brought into being our Nation, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights with its prohibition against any governmental establishment of religion.
Writing for the court, Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).

„That Amendment requires the state to be a neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and nonbelievers; it does not require the state to be their adversary. State power is no more to be used so as to handicap religions than it is to favor them.“

—  Hugo Black

Writing for the court in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947) about the consequences of the First Amendments Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause for the separation of church and state.

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