Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Dumbo Supreme Court Decision - On Opening Meetings with Prayer

Two non-Christians (one Jewish) from Greece, NY had brought a case to the Supreme Court seeking to clarify whether or not decidedly Christian prayers - even invoking the name of Jesus - were appropriate for City Council meetings. Now, to be sure, this ought to have been the proverbial "no brainer".  Let us get it clear here, once and for all, that secular government confabs or meetings are NOT church meetings - hence no religion can justifiably be involved, or superstitious invocations. If one does invoke any kind of preliminary prayers it is therefore a violation of the Constitution.

Indeed, there is a precedent for this, though the conservo brigade amongst the Supreme Court appeared not to be able to find it as they ruled 5-4 that the allowance of prayer, even specifically Christian was no biggie. And any adults in Greece, NY were obliged to suck it up and stop bellyaching. C'mon, grow up! Just stand and pretend to pray! NOT!!

Anyway, the precedent against this travesty  transpired in April, 2010 when U.S. District Judge, Barbara B. Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin-  rendered a decision which all atheists already know was too long in coming. That is, to rule that the insipid “National Day of Prayer” was unconstitutional. The decision asserted correctly that this national mockery violates the First Amendment prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion. (Note the definition of religion is generic here, and doesn’t have to apply to any specific religion.).

The decision was also a victory for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group had sued the Bush and later Obama administrations in an effort to block presidents from making their annual proclamations inviting Americans to set aside a day for prayer or meditation.Who do these presidents think they are, Mullahs, or maybe Ayatollahs? We don’t need any damned proclamations nor do Americans have to be "invited" to pray or meditate! If people want to petition or pray to some embolism emanating in their own temporal lobes, fine – but don’t make a national deal out of it! Sheesh!

Anne Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Fundation and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, heralded Crabb's decision as courageous, and further observed:

“It's an invasion of the freedom of conscience of Americans to have their president direct their prayer or tell them to pray".

 Logically, it follows that if a National Day of Prayer sponsored by federal  gov't honchos is unconstitutional then any local governments conducting their own prayers in any smaller venues must be so as well.

This is what we expect the Mullahs in Afghanistan or Iran to do. Crabb’s decision stands as courageous since most judicial districts and judges in any capacity remain cowed by the religious zealots and their political well wishers who still hold this country in their feverish, frenetic grip. Indeed, Jordan Sekulow of The American Center for Law and Justice (which filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of 31 members of Congress), said he was "confident the decision would be overturned on appeal."

He was correct. But the “consensus” or unified position of even all other federal or state justices – or even the Supreme Court- doesn’t make their appeals decision right or in concert with the Constitution. Very often, it is the voice crying in the judicial wilderness – like Judge Crabb’s – which embodies the true perception and ruling.  In an analogous fashion, when congress retroactively made the Bush wiretaps legal, they essentially perverted the existing law to an abomination. It is this abomination that has allowed the NSA mass surveillance and indiscriminate collection of personal data without specific warrants in violation of the 4th amendment.

But as Bush once said: "The Constitution is just a piece of paper".   Well, yeah! To a tyrant! Which apparently the five conservo Supremes aspire to as well.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking on behalf of the majority stated that the use of prayer in the Greece, New York setting of local government was mainly done to confer "gravitas" as in all similar cases. This was despite the specific invocation of the leader of the Christian religion.  But if Kennedy had really been impartial he would've seen this take for the bollocks it is, and acknowledged that a silent moment was much more appropriate - if the town honchos required anything to bestow "gravitas."

As one professor (Michael Meyerson)  from the University of Baltimore put it:

"It's a frustrating and disingenuous decision,"

Which any sensible person would agree with. Meyerson's point: The Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and others — might have mentioned a specific religion when speaking among themselves, but when they addressed the public they were "incredibly sensitive" not to appear to favor any particular creed.

The New York Times also expressed dismay in an editorial:

The American values of pluralism and inclusion are central to the First Amendment, which forbids government from favoring or aligning itself with any particular religion or believers over nonbelievers.

In a lamentable ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority brushed past those core values to allow the town of Greece, in upstate New York, to begin its town hall meetings with a sectarian prayer nearly always from a Christian “chaplain of the month.” [...] It was disappointing that the Justice Department urged the justices to uphold the prayer practice in the town hall meetings, which skirted the constitutional principle of religious neutrality and caused some residents to feel like outsiders.

Again, one must query the purpose of the Justice Dept. to stick its nose into the mix at all. What has prayer in a gov't setting to do with "justice"?  But again, if the Justice Dept. is also foursquare behind NSA mass surveillance, as it is, we can understand. The prayer thing then is merely another gimmick to try to confer gravitas on government decisions when public distrust of government is at an all time high. It is a cynical maneuver to grant license from "on high"  to back anything - maybe even the Keystone XL pipeline, or drone killings. "If God is with ya, not even your own citizens can be against ya - ya know?"

The ACLU, to which I belong, clearly stated:

"Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution”—

Maybe we need to remind the Justice Department, as well as the conservo segment of the Supreme Court,  of some relevant  background here:

Article 11 of Treaty of Tripoli :

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries"


"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. "  -  Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:428

"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises"  - Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:429

"Civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Miller, 1808. ME 11:428

"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another." --Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:78

Will any of these quotes from one of the nation's Founders have any effect? Not likely,  given this nation has already veered far off course from honoring and respecting the Constitution (E.g. the NSA mass surveillance, not to mention the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which eliminates habeas corpus).

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