The Supreme Court Rules That Christianity Is Not Christian | Jeff Schweitzer

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For the past six years I have followed and written sporadically about an obscure lawsuit in a town nobody could locate on a map, noting to the few who would listen that this was one of the most important legal battles being waged in the country. This labor in obscurity has ended this week with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a return to pre-revolutionary America. That the Court even agreed to take the case is a sign of the end of times.

The Supreme Court agreed with arguments that undermine our most cherished founding principle, the separation of church and state. As you absorb the folly to come, forget not that early settlers made the arduous journey to our shores in part to escape the stifling oppression of a dominant religion. The urgent need to rid the government from the influence of a single religion was Thomas Jefferson's unifying and guiding light. But Jeffersonian principles have been set aside for the convenience of promoting Christianity over all other religions. Welcome to the United States of Saudi Arabia.

The epicenter of our shift to a theocracy can be found in Greece, New York, where something seemingly innocent enough in fact threatens to undermine the foundational ideals of our country. In Greece, New York, the town supervisor each month invites a local Christian minister to open the council's meeting with a Christian prayer. Here is an example from the Reverend Lou Sirianni began with this:

"Be thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly." He ended with, "All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior."

The obvious problem, of course, is that not all citizens believe Christ is our savior. No big deal, you say? What is the problem, you ask? Would any Christian or Jew tolerate a town meeting opened exclusively with an Islamic prayer from the Quran? How would our Christian citizens feel if the meeting were opened with pleas to Allah? Or if the opening prayer was done in Hebrew? The answer is obvious and self-evident: It would be offensive, and clearly counter to the ideal of freedom of religion. That reality simply cannot be denied. Still not convinced? Then imagine an imam, bearded and turbaned, in traditional dress, standing before our United States Congress, invoking the Quran to open every session of the House and Senate. Not comfortable with that? Then imagine how every Jew, Muslim and atheist feels with each opening of a government meeting with a Christian prayer.

For this rather obvious reason the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court ruled that such public government-sponsored prayer violated the separation of church and state. If a town council cannot impose Islam on its residents, then the council cannot impose Christianity. Any effort to do so is unambiguously a violation of the Establishment Clause. Such an imposition is precisely what Jefferson and our other founder's feared most. The Circuit Court ruled reasonably; and the Supreme Court had no business taking this case.

Perhaps you think that Sirianni's prayer was an anomaly, and that opening prayer is generally non-denominational. Well, no. Here is another sample, from Pastor Robert Campbell's town hall opening:

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace." … Father, we thank You for these blessings that You've given us and bestowed on us, and Lord, blessing us with these men and women that have governed us, we pray that You'd continue Your blessing on them. … It's all because of what You've done and Your son Jesus in sending Him to be the Prince of Peace. And we pray for that peace upon our community. In Jesus' name, Amen."

The last sentence should remove any lingering doubt about this being a Christian prayer. Just substitute "Allah" for "Jesus" and we're living in Tehran instead of New York.

Lest you think the Rev. Sirianni's invocation or that from Pastor Sirianni were random samplings from a broad range of what god to summon, until 2008 only Christians were allowed to lead the prayer as official policy. This exclusivity is important because the Supreme Court has previously ruled, under the so-called "O'Connor's endorsement standard" that the government violates the First Amendment whenever it appears to "endorse" religion. Specifically, a government action is invalid if it creates a perception in the mind of a reasonable observer that the government is either endorsing or disapproving of religion. Well, c'mon: excluding all religions but one is by any standard an endorsement of that one remaining religion.

Yes, prior to this standard, the Court's record was a bit muddled. In 1971 in Lemon v. Kurtzman, another case involving religion in legislation, the court came up with what later became known as the "Lemon test." Government action "should have a secular purpose, cannot advance or inhibit religion and must avoid too much government entanglement with religion."

Written By: Jeff Schweitzer
continue to source article at huffingtonpost.com

28 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure what religion they think they are following when they do this, but some guy allegedly had this to say on the subject:

    “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6)

    So they aren’t being Christians.

    Once again we see atheists know more about their religion than they do

  2. Not to mention the “you can stand out like a sore thumb and look like a spoiled child” clause for those who without fuss excuse themselves.

    Ah politics, this makes the SCOTUS look as loonie as their hell fearing Scalia!

  3. I don’t understand how freedom of speech trumps religious freedom in this case, but I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the SCOTUS ruled this way, since opening prayers have been performed for both Congress and the Senate since the beginning.

    I suggest we all join our town councils and perform an opening prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

    • In reply to #4 by Billions and Billions:

      I suggest we all join our town councils and perform an opening prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

      the AHA has started a program to has people give humanist opening statements.

      • In reply to #6 by kilvehk:

        In reply to #4 by Billions and Billions:

        I suggest we all join our town councils and perform an opening prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

        the AHA has started a program to has people give humanist opening statements.
        What about the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

  4. from what i understand the ruling was that the prayer is allowed but all other prayers or opening statements must be allowed too. which is in fact perfectly legal. inefficient superfluous and illogical yes. but legal.

    • In reply to #5 by kilvehk:

      from what i understand the ruling was that the prayer is allowed but all other prayers or opening statements must be allowed too. which is in fact perfectly legal. inefficient superfluous and illogical yes. but legal.

      But also a waste of time and effort, paid for by the tax payer. These people are paid to supervise. If they want to do somthing else at the publics expence, they should make a formal request and be made to pay for it, (five minutes [or whatever time is wasted] of everyone’s pay, and back-date it, … with interest). And demand a frmal writen apology

  5. Firstly, the founding fathers came to persecute, not to escape persecution.
    They felt that the UK was too lax in its christianity and felt that going to America they could enforce their own brand of that religion.

    • In reply to #9 by Grauniad:

      Firstly, the founding fathers came to persecute, not to escape persecution.
      They felt that the UK was too lax in its christianity and felt that going to America they could enforce their own brand of that religion.

      You don’t understand basic US history. If by “founding fathers” you mean the people who came over on the Mayflower and other religious fundamentalists that made up many of the early colonists then I agree with what you said. But that isn’t typically what historians mean when they use that phrase. It’s usually meant to refer to people like Washington, Jefferson, Paine, Madison, Adams, etc. Most of those guys (all except Adams I’m pretty sure) were Deists which was as close as you could get to being an atheist back then and still be considered appropriate for educated society and government. They were the exact opposite of religious fundamentalists and they were a lot more honorable, and intellectually curious than virtually all politicians these days and even most modern intellectuals.

    • In reply to #9 by Grauniad:

      Firstly, the founding fathers came to persecute, not to escape persecution.
      They felt that the UK was too lax in its christianity and felt that going to America they could enforce their own brand of that religion.

      You confuse the early Pilgrims with the Founding Fathers — there’s a century between them.

  6. Once again the U.S. gets itself in a muddle over the separation of church and state, which i suppose is what the Christian apologists want so as to ensure it continues to have an unwarranted voice in American politics.

  7. And they continue to drag us back toward the bronze age with one hand while walking with the other hand’s knuckles scraping the ground (no offense to our fellow apes). There’s nothing supreme about our highest court. It only reflects good timing by one political party or the other when it comes time to replace justices. Insanity runs high even in our legal system.

  8. As a member of Freedom From Religion Foundation I have followed this case, and now it is over: the Supreme Court has pushed us back to the bad old days. I am sick. Now there will be little theocracies setting themselves up in cities all over the country. Our only hope is that demographics might change and there could be an attrition of the older prayerheads and replacement by younger, more rational people. Only a hope.

  9. I just had to sit through a graduation (all faculty are required to go) at a public college where there were more prayers than when I used to go to church. If was offensive to be sure, but mostly it was just boring. I always think of myself as a cultural anthropologist looking at an ancient tribe engaging in some silly, antiquated totem worship… Oh wait! That IS what is going on….

  10. You may well think that ‘separation of Church and State’ is a good thing, but to call it “our most cherished founding principle” is a bit of a stretch considering the phrase doesn’t appear in any founding national document. The Establishment Clause prohibits the Congress from “making any law respecting an establishment of religion…”, which seems to me quite a different thing. In drawing up the First Amendment the Framers were reacting most immediately to the status of the Church of England in Britain, which had (and still has) significant influence via the executive branch, reserved representation in their Upper House, and so on. Nonetheless, the Continental Congress and its successors was determined to secure prayerful invocations for their sessions, unopposed even by the most virulently anti-clerical Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson.

    So those who wrote the First Amendment (who represented what was probably a more secular political landscape than US politics of the present day) did not conceive that these kind of soft ‘endorsements’ of a general brand of theism served to ‘establish’ a religion, they, along with politicians and judges and legal theorists since, have set the bar much higher and further along the spectrum towards full-blown religious establishment, a la the Church of England.

    Even in much less religious countries like Australia, religious anti-establishment constitutional clauses have tended to be read narrowly. There was a federal Schools Chaplaincy Program involving government-funded religious employees operating in public schools, which was challenged on constitutional grounds in Williams v. Commonwealth. The court ruled unanimously the program didn’t violate s116 (our Establishment Clause equivalent) as the plaintiffs had alleged. I tend to think that it’s quite hard to ‘establish’ a religion, and to do so would require some kind of coercion in the direction of XYZ religious view on the part of the respondent. You can say that a Muslim, Jew, or whatever may not like their legislature frequently opening with Christian prayers, but that’s not actually a legal argument. And hell, if I lived in a majority-Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish country, I can’t see how it would be reasonable to expect their political institutions to sterilise themselves of any trace of their religious heritage because I don’t happen to share in it. Indeed, I would consider it outrageously generous of them to even offer other religions the opportunity to present prayers, as the town of Greece did in inviting a Wiccan Priestess, of all people, among others.

  11. Oh God what have they done…haha..sorry

    I always took the freedom of religion to be the freedom to practice it privately not publicly, not to be persecuted for it and to be left alone… Although, a ban on all worship would make me truly happy, I have no problem with anyone believing whatever they like in the privacy of their own home or with others. But, why do they have this obsessive need to “spread the word” That should be against the rights of other NOT to be bothered by it…I know why just gets my goat!

    Anyway…go science!

  12. And once again the Supreme Court has shown itself to be the impotent, vain, unprincipled, and perverted system we all feared it would become. No longer do the American people feel they live under a high court that will protect their constitutional rights. Instead we live under a political extension of the right wing fundamentalist mindset. This lot feels totally justified to interpret our nation’s laws as suggestions while fueling all fundamentalist principles as champion for all. How did a nation with a Catholic population of less than 30% end up with a Catholic high court contingency of nearly 60%? And the eternal 5-4 decisions clearly illustrate that no group of educated people could possibly interpret a written document so diversely with such a consistent vote count except for the fact that it is not the Constitutional law (spirit or letter) the five conservative justices are considering. Rather, it is: “How can I twist and link this issue with my ideology and make it sound like a constitutional decision?” My suggestion is that for efficiency the five conservative justices sequester themselves and be represented by one person with the power of five votes. That person would undoubtedly be Rush Limbaugh.

    • In reply to #23 by attaaboy:

      And once again the Supreme Court has shown itself to be the impotent, vain, unprincipled, and perverted system we all feared it would become. No longer do the American people feel they live under a high court that will protect their constitutional rights. Instead we live under a political extension…

      Hyperbole much? I agree this decision is a terrible one but a lot of the rhetoric here, including the article itself, is kind of over the top. The supreme court has made a lot of decisions that were more destructive to the nation, and fairly recent ones such as those that equate speech with money and give corporations a blank check to buy as many politicians as they can afford. I think when atheists inflate these kinds of minor assaults on religious liberty to be “The epicenter of our shift to a theocracy” we start looking like yet another whining special interest group that sees everything only from our narrow self centered focus.

  13. I can’t even begin to truly express my disappointment in this ruling. I was positive that our Supreme Court would easily dismiss this and respect the seperation of church and state. I can not for the life of me understand why they simply can not see the logic behind why this is wrong and violates that seperation. What it tells me is that our Supreme Court is not fair and does not have the best interests of the people of the United States. I am ashamed of our Supreme Court.

    • Agreed. John Paul Stevens said it best as he often did when commenting for the majority in the Wallace v. Jaffree ruling which was an affirmation of the Establishment Clause:

      “Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual’s freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed of the majority. At one time, it was thought that this right merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.”

      In reply to #25 by ksskidude:

      I can’t even begin to truly express my disappointment in this ruling. I was positive that our Supreme Court would easily dismiss this and respect the seperation of church and state. I can not for the life of me understand why they simply can not see the logic behind why this is wrong and violates…

  14. One would hope that this ‘isolated case’ remains exactly that way . . . and not a precedent for a return to a time when it was mandatory to pray in schools, or any community meetings. All contrary, of course, to the Founding Fathers of the US and the writing of its’ constitution . . . which seems to be the point of this insane court case. All from a ‘book’ that has more contradictory remarks in it and commands that it baffles one as to how it even can be used as a ‘legal argument’ in the first place. (And yes, I’ve read the Bible . . . the James version, the modern versions, and books both pro and con from apologists and critics alike . . . and if anything, it bolstered my ‘disbelief’ as an Atheist).

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