Greece v. Galloway


Yesterday, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court reached the stunningly obvious conclusion, under the text of the Constitution, the views of the Founding Fathers and the historic practice in this country, that prayers prior to town meetings are not unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  Go here to read the text of the opinion.  Of course the four liberals on the court, for whom the text of the Constitution is so much Play-Doh, dissented.  I was going to write a post on the decision, but Christopher Johnson,  a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels for the Church so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, has beat me to it:




I’m not a lawyer, I just pretend to be one on the Internet so I apologize if there’s too much technical jargon in this post.  But yesterday, CNN’s Daniel Burke reported that the United States Supreme Court told people who claim that the mere sight of a Christian cross compels them to become Christians or who claim to break out in a cold sweat whenever they hear someone say “Jesus Christ” to grow a pair and man the hell up:

If you don’t like it, leave the room.

That’s the essence of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s advice for atheists and others who object to sectarian prayers before government meetings.

In a 5-4 decision written by Kennedy, the Supreme Court allowed Greece, New York, to continue hosting prayers before its monthly town board meetings – even though an atheist and a Jewish citizen complained that the benedictions are almost always explicitly Christian.

Many members of the country’s majority faith – that is, Christians – hailed the ruling.

Considering the intellectual vacuity of court rulings on the Establishment Clause over the years, any schadenfreude yesterday, Chris?  Yeah, a little bit.  I’d use “wailing and gnashing of teeth” here but that’s Biblical and I don’t want to offend anyone.

Many members of minority faiths, as well as atheists, responded with palpable anger, saying the Supreme Court has set them apart as second-class citizens.

Groups from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to the Hindu American Foundation decried Monday’s decision.

“The court’s decision to bless ‘majority-rules’ prayer is out of step with the changing face of America, which is more secular and less dogmatic,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which litigated the case.

If you don’t like it, step out of the room for a few moments.

But what about people who like their local government meetings to be religion-free?

“Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy,” Kennedy writes.

Elections matter, folks.  Because they can result in stupid people getting lifetime jobs.

[Justice Elena] Kagan, writing for the dissenting minority, sharply disagreed.

She suggested that the five justices who formed the majority – all of whom are Catholic – don’t understand what it’s like to belong to a minority faith in America.

Did Burke happen to mention that the majority in this case was Roman Catholic?

The Supreme Court’s Catholic majority seems to think that, because many prayers before government meetings take on a ceremonial aspect, the actual content of the prayers doesn’t really matter, Kagan continues.

Just checking.

In essence, she said, the majority is arguing “What’s the big deal?” and making light of religious differences while conferring a special role on Christianity.

“Contrary to the majority’s apparent view, such sectarian prayers are not ‘part of our expressive idiom’ or ‘part of our heritage and tradition,’ assuming that ‘our’ refers to all Americans. They express beliefs that are fundamental to some, foreign to others – and because of that they carry the ever-present potential to divide and exclude.”

Ellie?  Have you ever actually read the Establishment Clause?  It says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  That’s it.

There’s nothing in there about division or exclusion or any of the rest of that hippie crap.  Put it another way.  What if that town board brought in a Muslim to offer a prayer one evening, he opened with “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful” and mentioned Mohammed a time or two, using that “peace and blessings be upon him” line?

Know what I would do if that happened, Ellie?

Absolutely nothing.

I wouldn’t make a scene or anything.  But I wouldn’t pray.  I’d sit there quietly and respectfully until the gentleman finished and then I guess we’d proceed with town business.  The fact that a Muslim publicly prayed while I was in the room neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, as Mr. Jefferson once put it.

And it certainly doesn’t constitute an establishment of the Muslim religion in that town, Ellie, your tortured reading of the First Amendment notwithstanding.

One more thing.  Atheists?  What is the deal with you people?  Why do you always turn up in stories like this?  You don’t believe this stuff or at least you claim that you don’t so why legally force people who disagree with you to keep quiet?  What difference does it make to you if someone publicly expresses concepts that you find absurd?

Sounds REAL insecure to me.

Go here to read the comments.  Judicial liberals are simply unable to understand they are judges and not legislators.  Their views on good or bad public policy are simply irrelevant.  In a case such as this, their job is solely to decide whether an action of a government violated a constitution, State or Federal.  All else is pernicious blather.  When a court steps beyond its role and attempts to make itself a super legislature it ceases to be a court and becomes a usurper of power.

More to explorer


  1. “One more thing. Atheists? What is the deal with you people? Why do you always turn up in stories like this? You don’t believe this stuff or at least you claim that you don’t so why legally force people who disagree with you to keep quiet? What difference does it make to you if someone publicly expresses concepts that you find absurd? Sounds REAL insecure to me.”

    There is no “God”. And I hate him. ~ Atheists

  2. “stunningly obvious conclusion” – Not quite so stunningly to four of them, credentialed cretins.

  3. It feels like they are throwing us a bone. That they are may sing wincing a bit at their own record. That they know the continuing trajectory and don’t see that they can really do anything about it and cannot or will not muster the intellectual arguments to Really change the trend, hence the graceless throwing of the bone. A bit of salve.

  4. The Supreme Court has no group mentality Anzlyne. Rather it consists of two factions with Kennedy as the effective arbiter. If you think that is a sad way for a great country to run its affairs, you are absolutely correct.

  5. “people who claim that the mere sight of a Christian cross compels them to become Christian”
    Atheists, or people who adhere to atheism, deny the immortal, rational, human soul; the human being composed of body and metaphysical soul. In denying the human being as he is created by “our Creator”, atheism denies all human rights, alienable and unalienable, but especially the practice of free will, that part of the man who most resembles and images the Supreme Sovereign Being, WHOM atheism denies. To allow man to practice his freedom identifies the human being, exercising the unalienable civil right to freedom, in this particular case, freedom of religion, man’s response to almighty God for his freedom; identifies the human being exercising the free will endowed to his soul by God, but not by the state, as a creature of God, making of the atheist, a fool, and of atheism, a trick of the devil, who does indeed believe in God, his Creator.
    The state, constituted by the citizen with his God-given sovereign personhood, cannot, by reason of the rational soul, own the citizen, the sovereign person, except by consent of the individual who makes his free will choice in freedom, never through coercion, makes a free will consent to serve the state, as statesmen.

  6. In the British Houses of Parliament, prayers are read before each day’s business.
    There is a charming custom that those members present may reserve their seats on the benches during the rest of the day by leaving their Order Papers on them, which others may not. If there is a major debate in the afternoon or evening, Prayers tend to be very well attended.

  7. Our founding principles inscribed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for the United States of America must be taught in all schools. Education into the real freedoms of man ought to be in the hearts and minds of each and every person. If the atheist does not like it he may go someplace else. The USSR did not allow Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist, entrance. Only one dictator to a gulag.
    Yes, God created time for evolution to evolve, and God created man for Himself…and man created the Supreme Court to dispense God’s Justice and Truth. Atheists who do not believe in Justice and Truth need not apply.

  8. “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” affirms the human being in his freedom, confirms the human being’s freedom as separate from the state, defines the individual human being as a moral being, as the state must prosecute crime, “the free exercise thereof ” is acknowledgement by the state that man is created a moral being, a righteous being.

  9. The religion clauses reach in different directions and are necessarily a bit vexing. Their imprecision, while appropriate for a constitution, is always going to give rise to debate regarding boundaries and their contours, some of it quite reasonable. But the irony that has always been obvious to me is how the rather narrowly phrased establishment clause has been so expansively interpreted while the comparatively broad exercise clause has so often been given a cramped understanding.

  10. I know you are right Donald. No real group think. I guess there’s a real identifiable difference in the way liberals and conservatives think. I mean their “method” of thinking. but maybe just common sense won the swing vote this time ?

  11. For believers this is good news. It is the latest decision from SCOTUS [no relation to Blessed Duns Scotus btw lol] concerning the delicate relationship between “Church and State”. Thw tradition of the Court concerning the First Amendment has been all over the place, and probably will in the future. This, however, was a positive development.

  12. “Judicial liberals are simply unable to understand they are judges and not legislators. Their views on good or bad public policy are simply irrelevant.”

    I can recall Catholic judges and at least one Jewish judge sitting as Lord Ordinary in Teind Causes. Until 2004, the Teind court dealt with matters relating to church teinds (tithes) and stipends (the financial burden on land payable to the Church of Scotland). The judges of the Court of Session sat in the Teind Court on a rota. No one imagined for a moment that their personal affiliations were of any relevance whatsoever.

  13. “….our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian.” Kagan

    This may be one of my dumber questions but: is that true? do minority opinions matter just as much in a democracy? does the majority rule?

  14. I don’t mean do they MATTER… of course we care about them. I just mean are they just as important when setting up civic procedures and protocols etc as what the majority of people choose. I don’t think Kagan is right on this.

  15. Kennedy: “Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.” I agree with his warning here- yes- there is a danger of this “civic religion” being established.

    In 1992 Kennedy said that Christian prayer at a high school graduation is unconstitutional. After Monday’s opinion he said that civic meetings are different from high school commencement because of the age of the audience and the freedom to leave if they do not like the prayer. Seems like a weak justification for his change of heart, but thank God for it.

    Could it be that the swing voter is “evolving” ?

  16. Godless liberal Democrats will always support a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist, but not a Christian and certainly not a Catholic Christian, even and especially if the Justice making the decision is a so-called Catholic Christian like Kagan or Sotomeyer. In the eyes of a Democrat, individual rights matter for everyone but a Christian. Nothing has changed since the Democrats advocated slavery in the 19th century.

  17. Atheists should shut up and leave the rest of us alone. I find atheism repugnant and so many of its adherents are obnoxious.

    Atheists point fingers at Christians and, as William Bennett once said, “beat us over the heads with our own virtue”.

    Dostoyevsky (sic) put it very well in The Brothers Karamazov. If there is no God then there is no right or wrong. When Man decides for himself what is right or wrong Man will find ways to justify evil and call it a choice.

    Atheists really don’t like it when guilt by association is plastered all over atheists.

  18. What I don’t get-on the surface-is why they get so upset at God etc. If He and all the rest are myth, etc why hould they care? Do we get upset at the tooth fairy or Easter bunny?

    However, on the deeper level, they know well why they care. Atheism is in fact a morphed variation of the most ancient of religions: pantheism [root of polytheism—>paganism etc] They might sound different, look different, but they actually are the same crowd we were facing in the first three hundred years of our history in the Roman Empire (including Emperor worship) and later in the rest of Europe. In short… they’re baaaaaacccccckkkkk!

  19. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court went looking for the human “person” to not abort, but did not find the person to not abort. The Constitution must be taken as a whole and not made piecemeal. Any member of the human species is a human being, embraced or tolerated, the human being is an entity unto himself and the Law of the Land is every bit one person’s as it is all persons’. E Pluribus Unum”
    The newly conceived has constitutional law on his side in behalf of his unalienable human rights. All generations to be conceived have constitutional law on their side. How can next year’s generation have constitutional law on their side but not this year’s generation? Roe v. Wade was and still is mob rule.
    The sovereign person constitutes the government with his sovereign personhood from the first moment of his existence. Since the state did not create the human being’s existence, the state cannot claim right to destroy human existence. The individual worships God in thought, word and deed and his freedom to love God is inscribed in our First Amendment.
    Roe v. Wade never proved that the newly begotten was not loving God and thereby not fulfilling his First Amendment civil rights. For an individual, the newly begotten, yet unborn, loving God is exercising his freedom of religion and his right to speak and assemble peaceably with God. As he grows arms and legs, he is peaceably assembling. No pun intended.
    In the final analysis, it is the school shootings after the removal of “Thou shalt not kill”, Ten Commandments, that has energized the Supreme Court to return God to the public square.

  20. “Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy,” Kennedy writes.”
    The person elected to chair any public meeting is the person delegated to choose and say the prayer. If a Muslim is elected, the body will hear a Muslim prayer. Why do our judges have such impervious ignorance?
    The atheist chooses his position in this matter and must live his choice. Nobody makes of him a second class citizen. Framing himself as a victim, the atheist is starting to get wearisome.

  21. Mary De Voe,

    Your reasonings & logic are superb! Here! Here!

    ( you wouldnt happen to have a single son over 40 would you?) 😉

  22. “In the final analysis, it is the school shootings after the removal of “Thou shalt not kill”, Ten Commandments, that has energized the Supreme Court to return God to the public square” Great point Mary De Voe

  23. About atheists:

    This malarkey will continue until the courts, which have already made ‘secular humanism’ a de facto religion for the purpose of conscientious objection to military service, decide to make ‘secular humanism’ a religion for the purpose of the establishment clause. The atheists would howl: “Atheism is not a religion!” Perhaps not in a theological sense, but there is no doubt that atheists want atheism to be the state religion of this country. Sorry guys, the legal precedent is already there, you wanted your belief system to be treated as equivalent to a religion to escape conscription, so there is no reason why your belief system cannot be treated as the equivalent of a religion in the Constitutional prohibition of a state religion. PDQ.

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