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Historical Anniversaries

Why These Dates Are Important

May 5, 1879  
Reynolds v. United States
SCOTUS decision that religious practices which impair the public interest do not fall under the First Amendment's protection

The US Supreme Court decided 9-0 that Mormon polygamy was a "moral menace" and thus a danger to society. The significance of this case for atheists is the justices' opinion that the public interest supercedes religious practice when the two are in opposition. It is also the official debut of the term "wall of separation between church and state", which Chief Justice Waite included in his opinion, having consulted the writings of Jefferson while analyzing the Founders' intent concerning application of the First Amendment to religion (see Jan. 1: Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association).

May 17, 1872  
Bertrand Russell's Birthday
Mathematician and philospher (b.1872)

English mathematician, pacifist, and philosopher Bertrand Russell was born May 18, 1872 in Trellech, Monmouthshire, Wales.

May 20, 1806  
John Stuart Mill's Birthday
Philosopher (b. 1806)

British philosopher John Stuart Mill was born May 20, 1806 in Pentonville, London, England, United Kingdom.

May 20, 1750  
Stephen Girard's Birthday
Philathropist (b.1750)

First US millionaire, philanthropist, and self-declared atheist Stephen Girard was born May 20, 1750 in Bordeaux, France.


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