Saturday, June 21, 2008

New York Supreme Court, 1811 - The People v. Ruggles

In this case, the defendant was charged with saying words that were " contempt of the Christian religion..." The opinion was written by Justice Kent, and said in part:

"...the Court... said that Christianity was parcel of the law, and to cast contumelious reproaches upon it, tended to weaken the foundation of moral obligation, and the efficacy of oaths.

"And in the case of Rex vs. Woolston's, on a like conviction, the Court said... that whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government... the authorities show that blasphemy against God and... profane ridicule of Christ or the Holy Scriptures (which are equally treated as blasphemy), are offenses punishable at common law, rather uttered by words or writings... because it tends to corrupt the morals of the people, and to destroy good order.

"Such offenses have always been considered independent of any religious establishment or the rights of the Church. They are treated as affecting the essential interest of civil society..."

See University of Chicago Discussion


scintilion said...

Could you verify the subject line? In one place it appears that Chief Justice Kent led the New York State Supreme Court. But this subject line appears to say that the Ruggles case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Chicago website doesn't specify what court Kent was part of. And being a newby to these pages, it took a few minutes for me to figure out that CH. J. was not representing the initials of Kent's firt and middle names. Thanks for what you've provided here. It's greatly appreciated. And remember that many of us that view this info are not lawyers and may not even be high school graduates. -Scott

History Matters said...


Oops - my fingers just typed "U.S." out of habit. You are correct that the case was from the New York court, and I have corrected the subject line accordingly. Thanks for catching it!