Monday, May 5, 2014

Time To Prohibit All Government Public Invocations

Originally Published January 22, 2012; Last Updated May 06, 2014; Last Republished  May 05, 2014:

Last week our Supreme Court declined to review Forsyth County, North Carolina, v Janet Joyner, et al. (pdf)—a Forth Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirming the prohibition of public sectarian legislative prayer (aka invocation) by government entities.

Our judiciary seems inexplicably constrained from prohibiting all public prayer [not just sectarian prayer] by government entities because of its observation that public prayer has been historically embedded in the fabric of our nation (Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 786 1983).

Of course the same observation applies to slavery or any of the other odious behavior periodically dreamed up by humans and embedded in their civil society structures, so this logic hardly seems useful or satisfying.

A more satisfying and useful logic might focus on ensuring our leaders focus on seeking their constituency’s guidance by absolutely prohibiting them from publicly seeking meaningless and useless divine guidance.


UPDATED 05/06/2014 BBC, US Supreme Court allows Christian prayer at town meeting
and U.S. Supreme Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, Decided May 05, 2014
Thus, any test must acknowledge a practice that was accepted by the Framers and has withstood the critical scrutiny of time and political change. The Court’s inquiry, then, must be to determine whether the prayer practice in the town of Greece fits within the tradition long followed in Congress and the state legislatures.
It's difficult to imagine what group of religious believers does not used an equivalent version of this test to perpetuate all manner of customs and practices, regardless of how nefarious, offensive or bizarre their customs or practices?

Surely, our Constitution is not constrained to our Framers' practices, even if the highly improbable and dubious assumption is made that their then practices were consistent with today's Constitution.1

One need not scrutinize or censor any religious activity by government entities to prohibit all government entities from engaging in any religious activity. Stated differently, by definition all religious prayer is personal and no legitimate governmental interest in advanced by public prayer or any other religious activity.

UPDATED 10/06/2013 Reuters, Analysis: At Supreme Court hearing, passions over religion and its rules and WT, Supreme Court debates government’s role in public prayer  (also pdf transcript, U.S. Supreme Court oral argument Town of Greece, New York  v. Susan Galloway et al.)

It's unclear why a bright-line cannot exist for all government entities between sectarian and secular activity?

The proposition that government related, sponsored, or supported activity with a sectarian meaning (e.g. the phrase "In God We Trust") can transform itself in to government related activity with a secular meaning (e.g. the phrase "In God We Trust") seems miraculous, not dissimilar to a first century Jew transmuting water in to wine.

UPDATED 04/12/2012 UPI, Supreme Court rules against God banners Teacher in San Diego suburb displayed "God" banners on desk contrary to school district policy; lower court ruled ok under free speech right; appellate court reversed saying public employee's speech rights can be limited; Supreme Court declined review.

UPDATED 02/17/2012 Reuters, Rhode Island public school agrees to remove prayer
UPDATED 02/14/2012 NYT, A Brave Stand in Rhode Island

You might think our public school boards and administrators have much more urgent priorities than repeatedly litigating involuntary monotheistic invocations.

Kudos to the parent(s) of this young student for enduring the uncertainty implicit in enabling her to follow her freethinking wherever that may lead her—significantly more challenging than joining a herd, if only, because human predators still tend to attack outside of a herd.

Of course it will not occur to most if not all of our monotheists that their behavior of tending to attack outside of the herd provides additional evidence for the human evolution (or lack thereof) that their chimerical prayers so urgently seek to deny or avoid.

UPI, Keeping Jesus in government


1. Some refer to this improbability as a strict construction doctrine that enables its adherents to divine the Framers' historical meaning, which can then be used to constrain today's Constitution!

Reaching back to the 18th century to preserve a 1st century practice (some might say fairytale) are not desirable attributes for a 21st century United States Supreme Court.

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