Supremes Breach Wall Separating Church and State

Separating Church and StateMonday, the Supreme Court further demolished the Constitutional wall that the Founding Fathers erected to separate church and state. The Court ruled, 5-to-4, that prayer is legal at meetings of public officials held in facilities financed with taxpayer dollars, as long as it is not used to proselytize or insult non-Christians.

Excuse me, but aren’t the people who are most demanding of government prayer the very ones who engage in proselytizing, petitioning prayer, intimidatingly aimed like a weapon at non-Christians who must be “saved” by the superior Christians who are the sole impediment to the road to hell?

The case was brought against town officials in Greece, New York, near Rochester, by two town residents. Those resident-citizens sued, on the grounds that the town officials’ official prayers violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court’s 5-to-4 majority, said the prayers were “merely ceremonial.” That, despite the fact that some of the town meeting’s prayers were quite explicit, including, for example, “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

The two citizens who brought the case said the prayers offended them, and, in Justice Kennedy’s own words in his decision against the two resident-citizens, “made them feel excluded and disrespected.”

Then, Justice Kennedy said the relevant constitutional question was NOT whether they were offended.

“Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable,” he wrote. As the basis for his decision, that is tantamount to finding — for the first time since the Dred Scott Decision — that it is okay for a public official to use the resources of public office to behave in a manner that his captive audience finds offensive.

And with that, the implications explode.

Citing Monday’s precedent, lawyers can now argue cases with the contention that the Court summarily compromised dozens of Civil Rights, sexual harassment, Americans with Disabilities Act, workplace bullying and anti-union intimidation prohibitions, and protections are therefore invalid, so you can be compelled to listen to unwanted religious and/or political pontifications, not just in government settings, but everywhere, including your workplace.

If that sounds like an overreach, just watch. Court cases are based at least as much on case law (court decisions) as on statute law passed by legislatures.

When it comes to lawyers citing case law in lower courts, it doesn’t matter that Monday’s decision was 5-to-4.

Ethically and philosphically, it does matter that not all the Justices were so reckless — especially when the minority’s dissenting opinion offers something that can be employed to educate the electorate.

larry-wines-formalJustice Elena Kagan, writing for the four-Justice losing minority, said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

Re-read Justice Kagan’s quote.

That view of our Constitutional rights just LOST.

Larry Wines

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