In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman. The court ruled that public school money could not fund private religious school text books and salaries. But more importantly than that, this case created what has been called the “Lemon Test.”
The Lemon Test was supposed to have settled the issue of Church/State Separation once and for all. This of course did not happen. The way the Lemon Test functions is by setting up three criteria and if any of the proposed action violates any one of the three criteria, that action is to be considered unconstitutional.
The three criteria are as follows:
1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose.
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion.
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.
This Lemon Test has now become established law in America and yet fundamentalist Christian legislatures and interest groups still don’t seem to understand how this test works. Continually, fundamentalist Christians are trying to put their God on everything including the US Capitol… literally. When Michael Newdow challenged the motto of “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill, he argued that it violated the Lemon Test and of course it does.
It certainly seems to me that the Lemon Test is too complicated for small fundamentalist Christian minds. So I have come up with a new test for Separation of Church/State issues. I’ll call it the “Staks Test” because that is how I roll. I know I wasn’t the first to say this, but I am the first to my knowledge to suggest it to be a legitimate legal test. My test has only one criteria because in Christianity God plus Jesus plus the Holy Ghost equals one (clearly Christians can’t count).
The one criteria is as follows:
1. The government’s action must be able to be substituted with another religious belief and still not offend the people proposing the action.
For example, if we were to replace “One Nation Under God” with “One Nation Under Allah” would those who support the motto still be in favor of it? Of course not, so the motto fails the Staks Test and must be ruled unconstitutional. If the government proposed to put a plaque in the US Capitol which said “In Satan We Trust,” would South Carolina’s Republican Senator Jim DeMint still think it was a good idea? Somehow I doubt it, so it too would fail the Staks Test.