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
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