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143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226

February 29, 1892

"These and many other matters which might be noticed,
add a volume of unofficial declarations to
the mass of organic utterances that
this is a Christian nation."

Full Text of Court Opinion

Biographical Information about Justice David Josiah Brewer

The Court's History of this Christian Nation (with Links)

The Influence of Jesus Christ on the American Legal System

The Myth of "the Separation of Church and State."

Separationist Arguments Against Holy Trinity Answered

There can be no doubt that Justice Brewer, joined by a unanimous Supreme Court, intended to declare that the United States is a Christian nation. Not just that there were lots of Christians living in America, but that our entire legal system and government was built on a Christian foundation, and intended to maintain a Christian character.

It's not enough that the U.S. Supreme Court made this inescapable declaration that the U.S. is a Christian nation, but it does so by surveying the entire range of America's "organic law," the founding charters that create our government and legal systems.

There have been a number of attempts by devoted advocates of secularism and the myth of "the Separation of Church and State" to evade the clear intent of the Holy Trinity decision. Here are three:

These pages are reproduced below, in the left-hand column, and answered in the right-hand column.

Church of the Holy Trinity v U.S

Church of the Holy Trinity v U.S., 143 U.S. 266 (1892)

Barton cites this case 20 times in The Myth of Separation (Immigration case)

Legal research, analysis and writing by Susan Batte, Esq.

Major claims by Barton in his publications:

In The Myth of Separation, page 47-51, Barton writes:



Notice how this case is described as an "immigration case." This is done to try to remove it from the realm of First Amendment/Church-State jurisprudence. Across the Internet, atheists/secularists attempt to claim that this case is "a labor law case," or "an immigration case," and "not a church-state case." Think about this argument for just a minute. The government is telling a church who they can hire as a pastor. The case of "Holy Trinity CHURCH vs. United STATES" is not a CHURCH-STATE case.


This case provides a good starting point [he lists this case first in his chapter on earlier court cases], for it cites several of the earlier cases. This case centered on an 1885 federal law concerning immigration which declared:

It shall be unlawful for any person, company, partnership, or corporation, in any manner whatsoever ... to in any way assist or encourage the importation .. . of any alien or . ..foreigners, into the United States . . . under contract or agreement . . . to perform labor or service of any kind. '

Two years later, in 1887, the Church of the Holy Trinity in New York employed a clergyman from England as its pastor. That employment was challenged by the United States Attorney General's office as a violation of the law. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The first half of the Court's decision dealt with what it termed "absurd" application of laws. The Court was not saying that the legislation was absurd, for in the early years the Court rarely criticized the legislature since it was the voice of the people. "Absurd" referred to cases where an interpretation by the letter of the law and not by the spirit or intent of its framers would lead to absurd results.

The Court examined the Congressional records of the hearings surrounding this legislation and established, from the legislators' own testimony, that the law was enacted solely to preclude an influx of cheap and unskilled labor for work on the railroads. Although the church's alleged violation was certainly within the letter of the law, it was not within its spirit. The Court concluded that only an "absurd" application of the Constitution would allow a restriction on Christianity:

No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. . . . This is a Christian nation.

The Court resolved the legal question within the first half of its written ruling and devoted the remainder to establishing that this nation is indeed Christian and why it would be constitutionally "absurd" and legally impossible to legislate any restrictions on Christianity. Despite the Court's use of only brief historical quotations, its references comprised eight of the sixteen pages in the decision. Justice Brewer, who delivered the opinion of the Court, gave the basis for the Court's conclusion:

This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. The commission to Christopher Columbus ... [recited] that "it is hoped that by God's assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered . . . ." The first colonial grant made to Sir Waiter Raleigh in 1584... and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided that "they be not against the true Christian faith . . . ." The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606 . . . commenced the grant in these words: " . . . in propagating of Christian Religion to such People as yet live in Darkness . . . . Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that colony . . . in 1609 and 1611; and the same is true of the various charters granted to the other colonies. In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant. The celebrated compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower, 1620, recites: "Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith . . . a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia . . . . The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1638-1639, commence with this declaration: " ... And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union . . . there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God . . . to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess . . . of the said gospel [which] is now practiced amongst us." In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701, it is recited: " ... no people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyment of civil liberties, if abridged of. . . their religious profession and worship . . . . Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of the Divine in human affairs in these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions . . . "; "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

The Court continued with example after example, citing portions from the forty-four state constitutions (the number of states in 1892), using many of the same excerpts given in this book in earlier chapters. The Court's historical discourse continued for several pages until finally summarizing its findings:

There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons: they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, it was decided that, "Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law . . . not Christianity with an established church . . . but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men." And in The People v. Ruggles, Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said: "The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice. . . . We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors [other religions]. "And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard's Executors, this Court . . . observed: "It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law ...." These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.

This stands as quite a convincing and broad-based argument! The Court quoted directly from eighteen sources, alluded to over forty others, and acknowledged "many other" and "a volume" more from which selections could have been made.

The Court cited People v. Ruggles, Updegraph v. Commonwealth, and Vidal v. Girard's Executors in establishing its conclusion. The Ruggles case was decided by the Supreme Court of New York in 1811, Updegraph by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1826, and Vidal by the United States Supreme Court in 1844. Before reviewing these three cases, an observation needs to be made about cases stemming from state supreme courts.

Currently, the federal Supreme Court is very high profile and affects national and private life through its far-reaching decisions. Consequently, a state's supreme court is now perceived as a less credible source than the federal Supreme Court. However, this was not the attitude of earlier years. For 150 years after the ratification of the Constitution, the states were considered the highest source of authority. Most disputes went no higher than state courts, and only unusual circumstances would cause a case to go to the federal Supreme Court (i.e., disputes between states, cases involving federal territories not yet states, cases not involving a jury decision, etc.).

Therefore, on items concerning religion and Christianity, the federal courts were considered less of an authority than the state courts. As the Court itself had noted in the Holy Trinity case, it had few occasions in which to decide on issues affecting Christianity: While because of a general recognition of this truth [that we are a Christian nation], the question has seldom been presented to the courts.

When the federal Court did render a decision touching Christianity, it frequently cited the decisions of the state supreme courts, as it did in Holy Trinity. It is helpful to keep this background information in mind when examining the following cases. [ Updegraph, Ruggles, Kneeland, Vidal, M'Creery, Runkel, Sharpless]

Is the United States a Christian Nation? By Susan Batte, Esq.  
Getting to Know Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer: Author of the Holy Trinity (Christian Nation) Opinion. Researched by Susan Batte and James Allison. Written by James Allison  
Robert Boston in his book, Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church & State, Prometheus Books, Buffalo N.Y., (1993) p 84, says  

The U.S. Supreme Court even fell victim to the "Christian nation" mentality from time to time. Religious Right activists frequently cite 1892's Holy Trinity Church v. United Slates decision as proof that the high court considered the United States a "Christian nation." But as usual, they don't tell the whole story.


In the ruling, Justice David Brewer flatly declared, "This is a Christian nation." To this day, historians debate what Brewer meant by the term. It is unclear whether he meant to say the country's laws should reflect Christianity or was simply acknowledging the fact that most Americans are Christians.

No competent historian can doubt what Brewer meant by the term. Below the secularists will even quote Brewer from his book, to the effect that the phrase does not simply mean that most Americans are Christians. Justice Brewer said he spoke of "official action and recognition," not mere "individual acceptance."

A strong case can be made for the latter proposition by examining a case that came along five years after the Holy Trinity ruling. The dispute centered on legalized prostitution in New Orleans. A Methodist church challenged a city ordinance allowing prostitution in one area of the city. The church argued that prostitution should be illegal everywhere in New Orleans, and said the activity was inconsistent with Christianity which the Supreme Court of the United States says is the foundation of our government.

The Court in this case rightly concluded that the federal judiciary had no jurisdiction over the police power of the states and localities.

Writing for a unanimous court, Brewer completely ignored the church's argument and upheld the New Orleans policy. Brewer's bypass in this case suggests that he did not mean to imply in Holy Trinity that the United States should enforce the dictates of Christianity by law. Had that been Brewer's intention, he surely would have upheld the Methodists' claim.

This is completely unreliable analysis. The writer of this web page just doesn't understand the concept of federalism. If the City of New Orleans made MURDER legal in a certain district of the city, the US Supreme Court would have no jurisdiction to overrule the local legislature. There is nothing in the case which would indicate that the L'Hote Court denied the holding in Holy Trinity (that the US is a Christian nation). The holding of the L'Hote case is found on 597:

It is no part of the judicial function to determine the wisdom or folly of a regulation by the legislative body in respect to matters of a police nature.

Humanists and secularists wish that the feds *did* have such omnipotent powers, but refused to exercise such powers because they were titillated at the prospect of spreading a little immorality throughout Louisiana. The writer seems to be trying to get readers to think that Justice Brewer came to his senses, threw out all that Ten Commandments stuff in Holy Trinity and joined Ben Franklin in encouraging vice and immorality. As a matter of fact, Justice Brewer, speaking for the Court, said that

the ordinance does not attempt to give [women of lewd character] license to carry on their business any way they see fit, or, indeed, to carry it on at all, or to conduct themselves in such a manner as to disturb the public peace within the prescribed limits. Clauses 3 and 4 of the first section of the ordinance are clearly designed to restrain any public manifestation of the vocation which these persons pursue, and to keep so far as possible unseen from public gaze the character of their lives . . . .

The Court did not place its imprimatur on prostitution.
The Court did not repudiate Holy Trinity.
The Court did not repudiate federalism.

Below is the case referred to by Rob Boston  
Legal research, analysis and writing by Susan Batte, Esq.  
L'Hote and the Methodist Episcopal Church v. City of New Orleans  
Facts: The City of New Orleans decided to establish by ordinance the places in its fair city where prostitutes could not live, inhabit, own houses, be lewd, etc. Plaintiff George L'Hote was a property owner in an area of the City of New Orleans that had fallen in an area protected by the ordinance, but when the City Council decided to amend its ordinance, Mr. L'Hote's property fell outside that protected area. He filed suit arguing, among other things, that the City of New Orleans through its amended ordinance had deprived him of the equal protection of the law, and that the City had no power to enact such an ordinance.  
The Methodist Episcopal Church joined in the suit alleging that the ordinance had caused a number of their congregation to quit the church.  
The plaintiffs' counsel argued that the plaintiffs were deprived of their property or the use of it without due process, that enacting an ordinance concerning prostitution was beyond the scope of the City Council's power, that the City Council's ordinance denied the plaintiff the equal protection of the law, and lastly, that the ordinance created an "asylum for abandoned women" in violation of the principles of the Christian religion, which the Supreme Court of the U.S. says is the foundation of our government."  
The Defendant's counsel simply argued that the police power is reserved to the states, that the ordinance was the result of the City Council's exercise of its police power, and that any owner of property so injured by the ordinance was deemed to be compensated by the overall public benefit "the regulation is designed to subserve."  
Issue: Does the City of New Orleans violate the U. S. Constitution when it enacts an ordinance prescribing limits where prostitutes may not dwell or carry on in a lewd manner violates the Constitution of the United States.  
Holding: No.  
Reason: Police power is beyond the reach of the judiciary. If the City can establish that its regulation is designed to protect the health, safety and morals of its citizenry, then such regulation will be constitutionally valid. Any injury on the part of one of its citizens is compensated by the overall public benefit. Brewer does not even address the Christian Nation argument of the plaintiffs. And Brewer certainly does not repudiate it.

Is the United States a Christian Nation?


Holy Trinity and the Christian Nation Dicta

"Dicta" in Holy Trinity and Everson
"Dicta" in Holy Trinity and Everson - Part 2

If Holy Trinity is not a "church-state case," then there is no such thing as a "church-state case."

What court case would the separationist authors agree is a "church-state" case? Everson vs. Board of Education? Nobody in his right mind would deny that Everson is a "church-state case." But if one argues that Holy Trinity is an "immigration law" case, and not a "church-state" case, one could just as easily argue that Everson is "an education case," or more narrowly, "a busing case," and not a "church-state" case.

This is pathetic and desperate.

David Barton (The Myth of Separation, pp. 47-51) and others of the Religious right claim that the Supreme Court determined that the United States was a Christian nation in the 1892 case, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 226 (1892). Unfortunately, their thesis and the analysis of the case that accompanies it amounts to little more than a manipulation of the language of the opinion to distort the actual meaning of the case, its relevant facts and its stated rule of law.  
Research and writing by Susan Batte  
The facts of Holy Trinity concerned the application of an Act of Congress titled "An act to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories and the District of Columbia." Holy Trinity Church, a church located in the city of New York, contracted with a minister in England to perform services as rector and pastor at its church. At issue in the case was whether or not the church's action violated the Act which prohibited "any person, company, partnership, or corporation ... to assist or encourage the importation or migration of any alien ... under contract or agreement ... to perform labor or service of any kind in the United States."  
The holding of Holy Trinity was based on an interpretation of the purpose of the Act. The Court concluded that the purpose of the Act was to prohibit the importation of foreign unskilled persons to perform manual labor and manual services. A christian minister, the Court reasoned, is a "toiler of the brain," not a manual laborer; Holy Trinity Church, therefore, was found not to have violated the Act when it secured a contract for the holy man's employment.  
The rationale in Holy Trinity contains several different parts. First the court discusses how it came up with the idea that the purpose of the Act was to slow down or stop the importation of cheap, unskilled manual laborers which might compete with American unskilled laborers for jobs. The Court says the title of the Act implies its meaning, that only the importation of "laborers" will be restricted. The Court then turns to the legislative history, debates, and comments of the Congressmen involved in drafting the Act to conclude that the Act was designed to regulate the domestic unskilled, labor market.  
Justice Brewer then writes in the opinion that "beyond all these matters no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people." Several pages later, after presenting a religious history of America, he follows up with the statement: "These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation." Barton splices together these two quotes and cites Holy Trinity as establishing America as a Christian Nation. The rationale (or reason) for holding that the law does not prohibit a Church from hiring a foreigner as a Pastor is because "this is a Christian nation." If this were an atheistic nation, there would be no rationale (or reason) for holding that this law should not be enforced against churches hiring pastors.

In PUBLIC CITIZEN v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 491 U.S. 440 (1989), JUSTICE KENNEDY, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE O'CONNOR join, concurring in the judgment, wrote:

The Church of the Holy Trinity entered into a contract with an alien residing in England to come to the United States to serve as the director and pastor of the church. Notwithstanding the fact that this agreement fell within the plain language of the statute, which was conceded to be the case, see ibid., the Court overrode the plain language, drawing instead on the background and purposes of the statute to conclude that Congress did not intend its broad prohibition to cover the importation of Christian ministers. The central support for the Court's ultimate conclusion that Congress did not intend the law to cover Christian ministers is its lengthy review of the "mass of organic utterances" establishing that "this is a Christian nation," and which were taken to prove that it could not "be believed that a Congress of the United States intended to make it a misdemeanor for a church of this country to contract for the services of a Christian minister residing in another nation." Id., at 471.

[491 U.S. 440, 474-75]

The "Christian nation" history is not "dicta," it is "the central support for the Court's ultimate conclusion."

To understand whether this last part of the Court's rationale establishes anything at all, it is necessary to first understand that an opinion written by the Supreme Court contains several different parts. The holding of the case establishes the rule of law as decided on by the court and as it relates specifically to the facts of the case. The rationale of the case contains the different reasons why the Court decided a case the way that it did. Contained within these reasons can be comments by the Court which do not have any bearing on the specific rule of law and are not binding on future cases with similar facts. These non-essential comments are called dictum [sic], and unlike the holding of the case, dictum [sic] carries no precedential value. The essential comments, or the holding, becomes precedent which can then be applied to subsequent cases with similar facts. dictum, singular; dicta, plural
In the case of Holy Trinity the essential comments made by the Court concern the scope of an immigration law. The rule was that the Act did not prohibit foreign "toilers" of the brain from accepting employment in this country. The foreign-born professional worker, doctor, lawyer, businessman, or clergyman, would be able to use the rule in Holy Trinity and the rationale regarding the purpose of the Act to support his claim for employment in America. Consider the "absurd" result if a doctor from Russia at the turn of the century were to state that he could be hired by an American hospital because Holy Trinity stood for the proposition that "this is a Christian nation." It would not make sense for such a person to cite the dictum concerning America's religiosity as a reason for allowing him access to the American job market. Precisely.

But it does make sense for a Christian Church to say the law does not apply to a Christian Clergyman because "this is a Christian nation."

That's what makes Holy Trinity a church-state case.

Whether or not America was a Christian Nation was not even at issue in Holy Trinity. The actual dispute or controversy the Court had to decide had nothing at all to do with religion. The parties in Holy Trinity did not question whether the Immigration Act's purpose was "for or against religion" generally or specifically. So when Brewer begins his religious history lesson with, "no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people," he refers to no particular statute, no particular actor. He has moved outside the actual facts of this case and the statute at issue to address the vague application of general principles to law in general. His statements, therefore, create no rule of law, and provide no useful precedent for future legal disputes. As any basic Legal Research textbook will confirm, the legal researcher will not find precedent in such language, but must look for "the [legal] rules stated by courts [which] are tied to specific fact situations" (The Fundamentals of Legal Research, 1994, Jacobstein et al, page 6). As the Court says in its unanimous opinion, "While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts...." Neither the immigration department nor the Holy Trinity Church called into question the fact that America is a Christian nation. But the government was acting in a way inconsistent with that truth. The Court then took time to remind the government (and an increasingly secular nation) of our heritage, applying this truth "to law in general."

The case does not "create" a rule of law, it simply recognizes a fundamental or "organic" fact about the entire nation, government, and legal system.

Brewer's comments about religion are not tied to any of the facts as presented in Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity Church did not allege in the facts of its case that the purpose of the Act was to discriminate against a particular religion nor that it was designed to prevent the members of their church from the free exercise of their religion. Since none of the facts suggested that the clergyman was being kept out of the country for the purpose of discriminating against religion or prohibiting religious exercise, the dictum by Brewer addresses no controversy and crafts no rule of law to be applied to other cases as precedent. It is often not the "purpose" (or intention, or motivation) to invidiously discriminate that gives rise to a court case. "I was just following orders," or "I was just doing my job" often results in a deprivation of rights. The immigration department official saw the words "Great Britain" on the paperwork, and said "That's a foreign country; no foreigners allowed," forgetting that "this is a Christian nation," and no law should be interpreted in a way that deprives a church of religious freedom. Even accidentally or unintentionally.

The wheels of bureaucracy often unintentionally and impersonally run roughshod over rights.

Holy Trinity's legacy includes a number of Supreme Court cases which cite the opinion as support for either statutory construction based on legislative intent or the use of immigration policy to exclude or include immigrants. Only on three occasions does the Holy Trinity christian nation dictum make an appearance in a Supreme Court case.  
In the 1931 case of U.S. v. Macintosh, an ordained baptist minister was denied naturalization because he was unwilling to take an oath to bear arms in defense of the country unless he believed the war necessitating the defense to be morally justified. As in Holy Trinity, the legal rule established by this case had nothing to do with the christian nation quote. Instead, the applicant was denied citizenship based on a reading of the naturalization statute which required the oath. Macintosh should have followed the rule (not "dictum") in Holy Trinity, as the dissent correctly argued. Macintosh is an egregious and fascistic decision. Read more.
However, in Macintosh dictum, Justice Sutherland writes, "We are a Christian people, according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God." Sutherland then states that as a nation we must assume that obedience to our laws is "not inconsistent with the will of God;" therefore, a foreign-born person refusing to follow the naturalization statute to the letter would be denied citizenship. Justice Sutherland declares that one's allegiance to the State cannot be qualified by a higher allegiance to God. This is outrageous. The State puts itself ahead of God. Read more.
There are a couple interesting notes about Macintosh. First, in Holy Trinity, Brewer uses the phrase "we are a christian nation" to allow a foreign-born minister access to this country. In Macintosh, it is used to keep a foreign-born ordained minister out. Second, a different result would most likely have occurred had this case arisen after World War II when the court overturned the Macintosh line of cases (Girouard, 1946). Congress passed a law permitting naturalization to someone who refused to bear arms, but was willing to engage in some other kind of national service. The State still declares itself to be above God. The State decides. If it decides, it must be obeyed, regardless of what God says.

Thus, Naturalization of Brakel, 524 F.Supp. 300 (N.D. Ill. 1979) noted that "these [Macintosh] decisions were overruled (on strictly statutory grounds) in Girouard. . ." (at 301, emphasis added), suggesting that the religious underpinnings of Macintosh-Bland-Schwimmer were left untouched. Macintosh is still cited by courts.

The other two cases which cite Holy Trinity's christian nation dictum are Marsh v. Chambers (1982), and Lynch v. Donnelly (1983). Brennan writes dissents in both cases and uses the Brewer verbiage to criticize the majority's use of history to support legislative prayer and a government sponsored crèche. In the crèche case, (Lynch), Brennan writes, "By insisting that such a distinctively sectarian message is merely an unobjectionable part of our 'religious heritage,' the Court takes a long step backwards to the days when Justice Brewer could arrogantly declare for the Court that 'this is a Christian nation.' Those days, I had thought, were forever put behind us ...."  There is nothing "sectarian" about Holy Trinity. Brennan is just a dogmatic secularist.

Getting to Know Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer:


Author of the Holy Trinity (Christian Nation) Opinion

Associate Supreme Court Justice David Brewer wrote the Court's Opinion for the Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 226 (1892). For more information on Holy Trinity and the Christian Nation Dicta, please see Is the United States a Christian Nation?  
Researched by Susan Batte and James Allison. Written by James Allison  

David Josiah Brewer

January 20, 1837- March 28, 1910  
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from December 18, 1889 to March 28, 1910 when he died of a heart attack.  
He was born of American parents in Turkey (Smyrna, Asia Minor [modern Turkey]) where his Father was a Congregationalist Minister and Missionary. His father was there to convert Jews to Christianity. He was a lifelong member of the Congregational Church and active in missionary work. At one point, he was on the board of directors of Washburn University in Kansas which was a Congregationalist college. He didn't attend meetings regularly but apparently did attend some. His uncle (Stephen J. Field) was on the Supreme Court at the same time he was and together they made up the ultraconservative wing of the court.  
As a supreme Court Justice, he is today largely forgotten. He fits into the "Average" category on most lists ranking Supreme Court Justices. That isn't a raving endorsement of his performance as a justice considering he was on the high court for slightly over twenty years.  
He has been described by at least one person as a racist. Who hasn't?
He was also described as writing a great deal but that he wrote more out of a desire for quantity rather than quality. (To be fair it has to be pointed out that racism was not exactly uncommon in this country, even among leaders of this country, during that time period. His actual record on the court in matters of race was rather mixed.)  
His uncle wrote the opinion for another case that David Barton likes to cite in his books and on his tapes--Davis v Beason. That case was argued 8 days before Brewer was confirmed as a member of the high Court, and was decided two months later. It is unlikely that Brewer had any official input to that case since he hadn't been confirmed yet but he might have had discussions with his uncle over it. In his case summary, legal analyst, Paul L. Murphy wrote:  
Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 337 (1890) was argued December 9-10, 1889, and decided February 3, 1890 by vote of 9 to 0; Field writing for the Court. Davis v. Beason interpreted free exercise of religion narrowly and inconsistently. Idaho had enacted a territorial statute denying the vote to those who advocated or practiced plural marriage or belonged to an organization that did. Samuel B. Davis and a number of non-polygamous Mormons, after trying unsuccessfully to vote in the 1888 election, sued. The Idaho court treated their disenfranchisement solely as a political question. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the statute as within the territorial powers of the legislature to set voter qualifications. The justices held that religion was a matter of belief, which was constitutionally protected but that conduct was outside the purview of the First Amendment. The Court then defined polygamy as conduct rather than religious belief. Using the Idaho statute as a soapbox for a diatribe on polygamy, Justice Stephen J. Field concluded that "crime is not the less odious because sanction by what any particular sect may designate as religion" (p.345). The preservation of a monogamous family unit was more important to American society than religious liberty for believers in polygamy. "Religion" was defined solely as having reference to one's view of relations with the creator and to the obligations they imposed.
Source of Information:  
The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, edited by Kermit L. Hall Oxford University Press. (1992) pp. 220.  
Brewer sprinkled religion throughout his writings, speeches and on occasions his opinions. In lectures at Washburn University and other places, he frequently claimed that our nation was founded upon the teaching of Christ.  
He apparently fully believed that Jesus taught that the individual was primary and the state, secondary. Therefore the power residing in the people comes from Christ's teaching thus making the Constitution and our nation a Christian Nation based on a Christian Constitution.  
He authored the opinion in Holy Trinity in 1892, but afterwards in speeches he would often declare that the Supreme Court had declared this to be a Christian Nation. (He had authored the opinion that declared it a Christian Nation, but would make the claim as if being author of that decision was totally another entity separate from himself.)  
In 1893 in Fong Yue Ting v United States in his dissent he complained: "In view of this enactment of the highest legislative body of the foremost Christian nation, may not the thoughtful Chinese disciple of Confucius ask, why do they send missionaries here?"  
A series of three lectures by him were published as a book published as The United States: A Christian Nation, by David Brewer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The book was published in 1905. The lectures, converted to chapters, are titled:  
       I. The United States: A Christian Nation  
       II. Our Duty As Citizens  
       III. The Promise and the Possibility of The Future.  
Brewer was one of the first of a very few people who have tried to weave and build a case for the words "Sunday Exempted" in the section of the Constitution laying out vetoes. He claims that this is proof that the Constitution is based on Christianity and cites several state constitutions of that time period which contain the words "Sunday exempted" as further evidence. (The Rev Jasper Adams appears to have been the first to advance this argument in his sermon and then published a pamphlet titled The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in The United States, February 13, 1833.) There are few, if any, modern scholars who try to build a case on those words; but Brewer does in his 98 page booklet based on the three lectures he gave at Haverford College in 1905. (For more information on "Sundays Excepted," please see The "Sundays Excepted" Clause.)  
Here are a few things he says:  
We classify nations in various ways as, for instance, by their form of government. One is a kingdom, another an empire, and still another a republic. Also by race. Great Britain is an Anglo-Saxon nation, France a Gallic, Germany a Teutonic, Russia a Slav. And still again by Religion. One is a Mohammedan nation, others are heathen, and still others are Christian nations.

This republic is classified among the Christians nations of the world. It was formally declared by the Supreme Court of the United States. In the case of Holy Trinity Church vs. United States, 143 U.S. 471, that court [meaning himself], after mentioning various circumstances, added "these and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

But in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that people are in any matter compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all of its citizens are either in fact or name Christian. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions.

Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian Nation--in fact, as the leading Christian Nation of the world. [Editor's note: In 1905 we were not thought of, at home or abroad, as a world power or leading nation in any real sense or area.] This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis--one which justifies its use. Let us analyze a little and see what is the basis.

Source: The United States A Christian Nation, by David J. Brewer, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, The John C. Winston Company (1905) pp 11-12 .  
From the bottom of page 12 to the end of the booklet at page 98 he proceeds to show how, in his opinion at least, this is a Christian nation.  
The Reverend Jasper Adams seems to have created the style of presenting his case in the sermon/pamphlet that was given and published in 1833 (The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States). That style, which was followed by David Brewer, still seems to be the style of choice by those like David Barton and others.  
That style begins with all the original charters for the colonies then moves to various clauses in the first state constitutions. From there, it manages to proceed to the federal constitution. More likely than not, there will be included a number of old state court cases, and frequently some comments thrown in by members of state government and/or federal government.  
That style of argument has its opposite, but that is never mentioned. By opposite, I mean describing how the various unions between religion and government that had existed in those original charters were weakened or eliminated by the time the first state constitutions were framed. Nor is there any mention that there was further breaking or weakening of surviving unions as various states revised their constitutions during the next fifty years or so. Neither is there mention of the ultimate ending of religion government unions that the federal Constitution, either unamended and with its Bill of Rights created. There is also have no mention of any court cases that denied the Christian nation concept or that our laws were based on any common law-Christianity connections. There are no quotes by state or federal government members that would not agree with the Christian Nation idea.