Of all the revolutionary ideas put forth by America’s Founders, prohibiting the establishment of religion was likely the greatest gift the Constitution’s framers bestowed on the young nation and subsequent generations of Americans. In fact, freedom of, and more importantly freedom from, religion was so important that the first line of the First Amendment prohibited the establishment of religion. It is a certainty that the Founders were well aware of the abuses on the people that establishing a religion would result in, and it is just as certain that “churches” took it as a personal affront they were forbidden from demanding adherence to their religion by the Constitution.
Despite the 1st Amendment, different Christian groups have made every effort to impose their religion on the people throughout the nation’s history, and after two-hundred-thirty-eight years, they were granted the authority to begin establishing Christianity by Supreme Court fiat. Besides the Catholic Court’s ruling that the “free exercise” clause trumps the Establishment Clause in the recent Hobby Lobby decision, the Catholic ruling that government prayers were the purview of Christians was the final insult to the rotting corpse of the prohibition on establishing religion.
After the Catholics gave permission to Christians to invoke Jesus and god prior to government meetings in the Greece v. Galloway ruling, one knew it was just a short matter of time before Christianity would be officially established as the New York town’s religion. As expected, the town of Greece quickly adopted an invocation policy excluding non-religious citizens and shutting out other religions reflecting a new Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) model prayer policy devised in the wake of the court abolishing the Establishment Clause.
ADF is a hard-line conservative Christian law group pushing the new dictate in towns and cities across America. The new Christian rule “avails itself of the Supreme Court’s recognition” that government prayers are constitutional and restricts opening prayers to “assemblies with an established presence [in the Town of Greece] that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective.” It is beyond refute that the religion most steeped in “sharing” a religious perspective is Christianity; over the past few years Americans have learned firsthand that “sharing the Christian perspective” entails imposing its edicts on the people by government. In the town of Greece, the board clerk determines which faith has an “established presence” and which faith’s “primary purpose is sharing a religious perspective.”
The ‘town’ attorney defended the new Christian edict and said, “I don’t feel that the policy in any way singles out or discriminates against any form of belief.” No, they just forbid citizens of other forms of belief, or of no belief, from offering invocations before government meetings, and in a predominately Christian community, only Christians can invoke their deity. It is noteworthy that the lawsuit against the town of Greece was brought by Jews and atheists who are now prohibited from offering opening remarks according to the Alliance Defending Freedom policy. The plaintiffs were weary of sitting through years of Christian prayers praising Jesus Christ, and sought redress from the Court they assumed would uphold the United States Constitution.
In her dissent in Greece v. Galloway, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan warned the Catholic Court’s decision would lead to discrimination against non-Christian faiths, and accused the Catholics of being blind to the “essential meaning of the religious worship in Greece’s town hall, along with its capacity to exclude and divide.” It took less than four month’s for Justice Kagan’s warning to become reality.
The executive director of Americans United For the Separation of Church and State, Barry Lynn, represented the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, and assailed the Alliance Defending Freedom policy as unconstitutional and “a warning sign for cities and towns all across the United States” that will adopt the ADF policy. Lynn said town leaders “said they’re (prayers) open to anybody. Now they’re not open to anybody. It’s really a scam. This is a way to go back to business as we had sadly always expected it. They only want Christians to participate. This is a step backward.”
It is also constitutional regardless what Lynn thinks because the Catholic Court described “public prayer as a larger exercise in civic recognition” that Justice Anthony Kennedy ‘implied’ was designed to “represent, rather than exclude or coerce nonbelievers.” Two of the Catholic Justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said if non-believers do not want to hear Christian prayers, they know where the doors are because the ruling did mean they were being “coerced” to stay and pray with Christians.
During arguments before the Catholic Court, the town board of Greece stressed that it was really fighting not just for Christian prayers, but for the right of all people to express their religious views regardless of their faith. But they were violating number 9 of the first iteration of the Ten Commandments (there were two) that forbids lying. There is a reason the plaintiffs in the case, Jewish and non-believers, brought the lawsuit against the town in the first place and argued that the predominately Christian prayers were violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Catholic Court disabused the plaintiffs of their false belief that the Establishment Clause was valid when it ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs. Now, it is constitutional for the establishment of government prayers that the town of Greece can reserve for purveyors the one faith that exists with the “primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective;” the Christian perspective.
It was certain the High Court’s Greece v. Galloway ruling was going to result in establishing the predominate faith in the town (Christianity) as the sole government meeting prayer offerings. Prior to the Court’s ruling, only four non-traditional Christian prayers were offered over the course of several years, and the Alliance Defending Freedom’s new template policy is specific that only faiths with an “established presence for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective” and was tailor-made for a city clerk to select Christian-only prayer offerings.
The Catholics on the High Court made a serious error in ruling that any government prayers were constitutional. Conservative Christians are notorious for taking liberties to impose their religion on the entire population, and regardless the Catholic Court’s pathetic reasoning that tradition dictated government prayers were Constitutional, they knew the ruling would result in establishing Christian-only prayers at government meetings because Justice Elena Kagan warned them. The tragedy is that now that the ADF has a religious edict in place in the form of a fill-in template, it is just a matter of time before cities across America will mandate Christian-only prayers and deny other faiths and non-believers their free exercise of religion. Atheists and agnostics were denied their freedom of speech because they do not pray, have no well-established assembly, and have no religious perspective to share.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.