In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway on Monday, ‘Puter posted his thoughts on his Facebook page. ‘Puter’s got some very liberal friends, and one friend who is an avowed atheist. ‘Puter’s post generated a lively and respectful back-and-forth on the controversial topic of pre-meeting prayer.
Here’s ‘Puter’s post in its entirety:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Greece v. Galloway, holding the Establishment Clause does not forbid sectarian prayers given before Town Board meetings even when those prayers have been overwhelmingly Christian.
There are some important caveats in this case.
Governmental entities may not exclude a religious group’s chaplain from offering prayers. Greece, in addition to the overwhelming number of Christian opening prayers, also had benedictions given by a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi and a Wiccan.
Governmental entities may not use the prayer opportunity “to proselytize of advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.” The Court also notes the “analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the prayer opportunity.” The Court held there is no indication that Greece did so.
Justice Kennedy, who wrote the plurality opinion, stated two notions that those of us on either side of this issue would do well to remember.
“The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech.”
“Offense, however, does not equate to coercion. Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary religious views … .”
On the whole, I think the Court got it right. Offense, without more, does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, at least for First Amendment (specifically, Establishment Clause) purposes.
Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.
Note that ‘Puter’s not completely enamored of the Court’s decision, though he thinks the Court got it right. ‘Puter agrees with St. Louis University Assistant Professor of Law Chad Flanders’ post at SCOTUSblog in that “we’ve always done it this way” does not provide adequate guidance to courts on how to proceed in the future.
‘Puter’s other thought is that this is an instance where the Right can win with dignity. We have vindicated the right of legislatures to open sessions with prayers, and that right has now been extended to town boards and other local, quasi-legislative bodies. It would be civil to now stop saying prayers before meetings, but note at every meeting that the town has determined that while it has the right to have an invocation, it chooses not to do so out of respect for those from minority faith traditions. Not everything that can be done must be done.
Many will disagree with ‘Puter’s “our right to say pre-meeting prayers is upheld, let’s stop exercising that right” approach, and you’re free to do so. But before you make up your mind, I want you to recall the reactions of liberals after Roe v. Wade (and National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius).
You don’t want to be, and ‘Puter will not be, an unthinking, doctrinaire douchebag standing at the podium shouting “It’s. The. Law!” to adoring throngs. Even if being an unthinking, doctrinaire douchebag means ‘Puter also gets to be president.
Always right, unless he isn’t, the infallible Ghettoputer F. X. Gormogons claims to be an in-law of the Volgi, although no one really believes this.
’Puter carefully follows economic and financial trends, legal affairs, and serves as the Gormogons’ financial and legal advisor. He successfully defended us against a lawsuit from a liquor distributor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid deliveries of bootleg shandies.
The Geep has an IQ so high it is untestable and attempts to measure it have resulted in dangerously unstable results as well as injuries to researchers. Coincidentally, he publishes intelligence tests as a side gig.
His sarcasm is so highly developed it borders on the psychic, and he is often able to insult a person even before meeting them. ’Puter enjoys hunting small game with 000 slugs and punt guns, correcting homilies in real time at Mass, and undermining unions. ’Puter likes to wear a hockey mask and carry an axe into public campgrounds, where he bursts into people’s tents and screams. As you might expect, he has been shot several times but remains completely undeterred.
He assures us that his obsessive fawning over news stories involving women teachers sleeping with young students is not Freudian in any way, although he admits something similar once happened to him. Uniquely, ’Puter is unable to speak, read, or write Russian, but he is able to sing it fluently.
Geep joined the order in the mid-1980s. He arrived at the Castle door with dozens of steamer trunks and an inarticulate hissing creature of astonishingly low intelligence he calls “Sleestak.” Ghettoputer appears to make his wishes known to Sleestak, although no one is sure whether this is the result of complex sign language, expert body posture reading, or simply beating Sleestak with a rubber mallet.
‘Puter suggests the Czar suck it.