Separation of Church and State

On Town Prayer, the Majority Has Its Way

Some Americans still stuff their faith down the throats of the minority.

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Preacher
SeaDave / Foter

The United States was founded mostly by Protestants and remained overwhelmingly Protestant for many decades, a fact Protestants did not want Roman Catholics to forget. When Catholics began arriving here in large numbers in the middle of the 19th century, they found that in public schools the majority religion was pervasive and inhospitable.

Catholic children, one historian wrote, had "to attend schools where the King James Bible was read, where Protestant hymns were being sung" and where lessons were "very much anti-Catholic." Catholics resisted, and Protestants took offense. In Philadelphia, the conflict provoked deadly riots and the torching of a Catholic church.

Unwilling to tolerate being treated like alien intruders and second-class citizens, Catholics set up their own schools. That way, they didn't have to have their beliefs denied and their minority status rubbed in their faces.

In the 21st century, American Catholics no longer have to worry about official discrimination and disrespect. That's especially true on the United States Supreme Court, whose nine justices include six Catholics—and no Protestants.

But the Puritans didn't come to America seeking religious freedom; they came seeking the chance to force their religion on others rather than have other religions forced on them. Likewise, the lesson five of the Catholic justices apparently have learned from history is not that the minority should be protected by the Constitution. It's that it's good to be in the majority.

Catholics are now part of the national majority, which is Christian rather than Protestant and pays far less attention to doctrinal differences than it once did. The minority today consists of Americans who don't share the dominant faith: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, atheists and so on.

They are the ones insulted by the town council of Greece, N.Y., which for years has invited clergy to give invocations before its monthly meetings. From 1999, when the prayers began, until 2008, not one of them was led by a non-Christian. When someone complained, the council accommodated Jewish, Baha'i and Wiccan representatives, before reverting to a steady diet of Christians.

The Christian pastors' entreaties to the Almighty were sometimes bland but often not. One invoked "the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross." Another referred to "the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

The message received by residents Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway, the former an atheist and the latter Jewish, was that they were different and inferior. "Some of these pastors tell you to stand up and bow your heads to pray to Jesus, and what if you don't believe that?" Galloway asked the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. "And if you refuse to stand up and bow your head, you stand out. It's a coercive situation."

In a decision Monday, though, the Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that the council prayers are akin to the invocations offered in legislatures and Congress, which it has approved. But Justice Elena Kagan noted that the two are not the same. The council meetings involve citizen participation, which sessions of legislatures and Congress don't, and the prayers in Greece are directed at the audience, not the lawmakers.

Citizens normally don't have to sit through a prayer to testify in a congressional hearing. But residents of Greece must do that to make requests at a town council meeting. As Kagan wrote, someone in this position "must think—it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth—that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance."

Publicly disassociating yourself from Christianity may offend the elected officials who exercise power over you. If you want something from the council but are put off by the appeal to Jesus, you have to ask yourself the "Dirty Harry" question: Do you feel lucky?

The court sees no constitutional violation mainly because the practice evokes no discomfort in the majority. If it did, it wouldn't be tolerated. The four dissenters include, along with Sonia Sotomayor, all three Jewish justices—who don't have to imagine what it's like to be part of a tiny and not universally beloved minority.

The council claims it is open to different religious voices. But what if it were flooded with invocation requests from Muslims, pagans and Satanists? If the council members and other attendees had to regularly endure prayers they found obnoxious, rest assured, the invocation ritual would be eliminated.

In Greece and in the Supreme Court, a variant of the Golden Rule is in effect: Do unto others what you wouldn't let them do unto you.

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  1. “And if you refuse to stand up and bow your head, you stand out. It’s a coercive situation.” Really? Maybe she should go somewhere with actual coercion and learn the difference. And this is not ‘shoving religion down our throats’. This is about a prayer before town council meetings, and clergy from any religion, according to the article above, are welcome to give the invocation.

    The separation of church and state in the constitution is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This is, constitutionally, not something anybody but the city in question has any right to be involved in, including the courts.

  2. Waaah, you hirt my feelings. I feel excluded and offended so I’m going to hire a lawyer to get the government to push you around.

    1. That’s “hurt”.

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  3. Attending a town council meeting sounds bad enough without having it turned into a church service…barf.

  4. So do you forfeit your right of free speech when you are elected to public office? If the officials want to start the meeting with a prayer, they have a right to do so. If the voters don’t like it, vote them out and put someone in who doesn’t do that.

    The question is very simple, what is more important there, the officials right to express their religion in public or the plaintiff’s right to not be subjected to those beliefs when expressed by a public official at a public meeting? I am going with the former. If it is the later then where does it end? What if the official is a Sikh and wears his turban. Wouldn’t that make non Sikhs feel uncomfortable? What if he is a Muslim and insists that the meetings not be held on Saturday or during Ramadan? Couldn’t that make it hard for people to attend the meetings and make them uncomfortable? This shit never ends once you adopt the standard that “no one can say anything religious because it might make someone who is not religious uncomfortable whatever the hell that means. The better way is to not regulate speech but gasp regulate conduct. If the Catholics or the Jews or whoever take over the council and start discriminating against everyone else, then do something.

    1. If the officials want to start the meeting with a prayer, they have a right to do so.

      not on my dime, they don’t. Freedom of religion does not require taxpayers to provide you a place to practice it. Next thing you know, people will be calling health care a right.

      1. Then vote them out of office Warren. If you don’t like that, great. That is a good reason to vote against them. You are perfectly free to judge the content of their speech and them accordingly. What you are not or at least should not be free to do is run to a judge and use the power of a gun to shut them up. We have a 1st Amendment and they have a right to say what they want just like you have a right to judge them for it and vote them out of office.

        Take your boot off people’s faces for a bit and learn to live in a free society.

        . Freedom of religion does not require taxpayers to provide you a place to practice it

        That is idiotic. Saying something in a public meeting is not the “taxpayer providing a place to practice anything”. You and everyone at a public meeting can pray, bring voodoo dolls, bow before a picture of Darwin or whatever the hell you wish. It is called freedom of speech. It is a difficult concept for a lot of people to grasp but it does exist.

        1. Take your boot off people’s faces for a bit and learn to live in a free society.

          You have that exactly backwards. I’m not infringing on your right to pray. I’m sure the town has several churches you could meet at before the town meeting. I guess god only hears the prayer if you force the unwilling to listen.

          Then vote them out of office

          Might makes right.

          1. I am saying people can say anything they like. You are saying a judge should intervene and use the force of law to control what they say. But I am the one who supports force here.

            Freedom is slavery!!!!

            Lastly, saying that public officials can say (not do but say) anything they like is not saying might makes right. it is saying people have a right to free speech, which is something you apparently can’t handle.

            1. People also have a right to be free from government-sanctioned religion.

              1. I have a right to be free from government imposed by the likes of Tony. But the Tonys of the world can’t have that.

              2. government-sanctioned religion

                Derptology…to which you gladly subscribe.

              3. Tell that to the hysterical global warmening acolytes.

          2. You have that exactly backwards. I’m not infringing on your right to pray.

            And putting up with an opening prayer isn’t infringing on your right to think that it’s all a bunch of superstitious mumbo-jumbo, any more than my putting up with the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of any number of public gatherings infringes my right to believe that *it* is a bunch of crypto-socialist fetishism.

        2. I mean…I’m oppressing your rights with my boot on your face now, but if I get enough votes it won’t be oppression of rights anymore?

          1. If you vote me out of office, that is the way it goes. I don’t have a “right to be in office”. I just have a right to say anything I want when I am there.

            1. I agree. Public officials can make religious spectacles, all they want. Let them show the world how irrational they are.

        3. Telling someone to vote them out of office is asinine. If you, as an individual, could vote someone out of office, then great. But if you are in the minority then you are fucked. Next you’ll tell me to move if I don’t like it, which is equally absurd.

          That stance basically equates to “I don’t have anything better to say.”

          No offense, but if you have a religious prayer said to the audience before government business you are predisposing people to your religion. It is intimidating and maddening as a minority member. A sikh can wear his turban. A sikh can pray to himself. A sikh getting someone else to come in and spout out their religious views to everyone before approving a zoning variance is not acceptable.

          1. No offense, but if you have a religious prayer said to the audience before government business you are predisposing people to your religion.

            That does not make any sense. Are you saying that the mere act of reciting a prayer sways people to the corresponding religion? Because that sounds like superstitious nonsense to me.

            It is intimidating and maddening as a minority member.

            If you are intimidated by someone else speaking, that is your problem not the speaker’s. If there is no threat of force, then the intimidation is entirely in your head.

            A person’s exercise of his expression may madden you, but that does not give you the right to suppress it.

            A sikh getting someone else to come in and spout out their religious views to everyone before approving a zoning variance is not acceptable.

            This only matters if it affects the outcome of the hearing, and only insofar as it does so. The prayer is a meaningless act of speech; it is the exercise of the man’s duties that matter.

            The only claim you have to stand on is that it wastes time. And that’s a fine claim, but in the case of elected officials it is up to the electorate to judge whether it’s wasteful, and in the case of appointed officials, it’s up to the elected officials and the rules they’ve made.

            If at no point your rights are being infringed, then you have no claim to action through the courts.

          2. To be fair, the Sikh’s religious views probably make more sense than the zoning laws.

        4. John,

          I just posted an opinion. I’m ready for your attack.

      2. Your dime has nothing to do with it. Or did you think you were going to get a reduction in your property tax assessment if the town council stopped opening their meetings with prayers?

        1. Yeah, there’s all sorts of rights violations here, like stealing from you (taxes) and denying you dominion over your property (zoning).

          Saying that somebody who’s being paid to bloviate should circumscribe the topics of conversation does not rise to the level of a rights violation.

      3. 100% of the dimes given to the government belong to the People. 80% of the People are Christians. Keep your dime. We won’t miss it.

    2. Hey John,

      Is that you? I just posted an opinion. Would you like to attack it? I’m ready for you Asshole. Have at it.

  5. Lastly, go fuck yourself Chapman with the anti Catholic bigotry. How fucking dare you cheapen the argument and the pages of Reason with such a horseshit argument like “those Catholics just don’t understand”. It is pathetic and any competent editor should have shoved this column up your ass and never published it.

    1. Although I think his article was a bit more nuanced than your response, I find myself agreeing with, in a general way 🙂

    2. American Christians haven’t lived as religious minorities? Why, that’s just crazy talk!

  6. An excellent article, and spot on. I’m Christian, but its not hard to see how this would not sit well with non-Christians. Actually, as a Christian, it doesn’t sit well with me. I guess that’s because we were once instructed:

    “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

    Someone once said that.

    1. Great, you’re Christian, but plese don’t be one of those with “Christian guilt” that thinks that any non-Christian complaining about them has merit and needs to be respected.

      That quote you gave on being discreet would apply to any Church service in any Chruch too, moreso than respecting other relgision – in fact that quote seems pretty critical of other religions – so not sure that’s really helping you and Chapman here.

      1. I think I’m just a Christian quoting Christ. Sometimes his instructions are just so inconvenient for us Christians.

      2. By the way, what other religions were criticized in the quote. He was criticizing his own, not others.

  7. But the Puritans didn’t come to America seeking religious freedom; they came seeking the chance to force their religion on others rather than have other religions forced on them.

    I gots no brief for Puritans, but this is horseshit. Some were, some weren’t. Anyone writing on religious freedom in the US should know about Roger Williams and Rhode Island.

    1. And William Penn and Lord Baltimore. Pretty much the entire original 13 colonies were founded by groups looking for religious tolerance.

      1. Well, in Maryland the penalty was death for denying the divinity of Jesus. The Puritans managed to put four Quakers to death before their laws, too, changed.

        1. It’s not as if the Puritans took over a pluralistic community and started persecuting non-Puritans. They *started* the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be a Puritan utopia. Nobody invited the Quakers to come in, but they came anyway, for the express purpose of pissing on the Puritans’ utopia. The Puritans told them that they weren’t welcome, and threw them out of the colony, warning them that they would be executed if they insisted on coming back. That doesn’t excuse what the Puritans did when the Quakers did in fact come back, but it’s pretty much undeniable that the Quakers were going out of their way to court trouble.

          1. So they came into a theocracy and started practicing their own religion for the express purpose of tweaking the theocrats’ noses? I already liked Quakers, but now I like ’em more.

      2. Throwing Roger Williams into the wilderness is a pretty strange way to demonstrate tolerance.

    2. Roger Williams doesn’t really help your point since he was only in Rhode Island because he had to flee Massachusettes to avoid being arrested for heresy by the Puritans.

  8. I’m an atheist. I have yet to be outraged at people praying around me. No one has yelled at me or “othered” me for attending a Catholic service (funerals in both cases) and not taking part in the prayers, I guess being too concerned with their own participation to care that I had only bowed my head slightly and remained silent.

    I’m not sure what Linda Stephens thinks, but all I can say to Susan Galloway is that if you don’t want to stick out in a bunch of Christians then maybe you should convert. Or if you feel that your particular religious beliefs, in her case Judaism, aren’t being respected, then maybe you should have a rabbi come in and do a quick prayer for the Jews in the audience.

    As for me, I’m not so concerned with what other people think of me that I’d let that dictate my religious beliefs or practices. And, handily, being an atheist I don’t adhere to Christian beliefs by definition, which means I’m not afraid that if I don’t ask Jesus to bless the legislative process (how’s that worked out so far, btw?) something bad will happen.

  9. “The court sees no constitutional violation mainly because the practice evokes no discomfort in the majority.”

    — Hmm – actually it’s probably because no part of the constitution is violated. This doesn’t violate the “no state-sponsored religion” piece, and no one has a right to not be discomforted by the speech of others. I find your implication here – and the four dissenting Justice’s stances – fairly statist in trying to force others to stop something simply because it’s not your bag. Grow a thicker skin.

    “The council claims it is open to different religious voices. But what if it were flooded with invocation requests from Muslims, pagans and Satanists?”

    — So you ask this, but earlier in the article tell us that they actually have, in fact, had “Jewish, Baha’i and Wiccan representatives” in the past. So they seem pretty willing – if they had a Wiccan, even Satanism probably wouldn’t be off the table.

    Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway, and the Democrat and Chronicle, need to grow up and be comfortable standing up for what they believe in – just beause they’re sheep who can’t stand the idea of doing something different from the rest of the group their with (by choice), by not bowing their head, is no reason to force everyone else not to have the option. Did they get called out for it? Were they banned from meetings for it? Ostracized in any way? Nope.

    And, the first half of the article was a non sequiteur about Catholic vs Protestant.

  10. The council claims it is open to different religious voices. But what if it were flooded with invocation requests from Muslims, pagans and Satanists? If the council members and other attendees had to regularly endure prayers they found obnoxious, rest assured, the invocation ritual would be eliminated.

    We have an ongoing similar situation in Chesterfield County, VA. There is a Wiccan who has been trying to get on the list to offer invocations at Board of Supervisors meetings for years, and she’s mysteriously always passed over for christians.

    1. Too bad about the Wiccan. Your citizens should be open to even more varieties of religious codswallop than what they already get.

  11. I was in the 7th grade when John Kennedy ran for president and I remember on old lady telling me that “The Pope has his grip already packed so he can come here and take over as soon as this Kennedy gets elected, so I pray every day that he doesn’t.”

    Could she have been Chapman’s great grandma?

    1. Does “I pray every day that he doesn’t” refer to JFK getting elected or to the Pope coming here and taking over? Because if it’s the latter, it looks like her prayers were answered.

      1. She prayed for Kennedy not getting elected.

      2. She prayed for Kennedy not getting elected.

  12. I personally have no problem seeing or hearing people practicing their religion…I start to have a problem when that religious practice is taking place where the agents of the state hatch their plots.

    Your religious beliefs have literally nothing to do with defending me against force and fraud, which is the only thing government has any legitimate business doing. Understanding how dangerous government power can be, I would think libertarians should be wary of even the appearance of state religion…or, when some Bible-thumping politician wants to enact a law based on his idea of what God wants because “we’re a Christian nation” and it says “In God We Trust” right there on our money, we shouldn’t be surprised.

    1. Maybe Libertarians should also be aware of how dangerous allowing judges determine what public officials can and cannot say can be? I am more afraid of the judge than I am of some half wit praying before a meeting. I would suggest you be as well. If the guy really is some kind of fanatic bent on doing harm, telling him he can’t pray before a meeting isn’t exactly going to stop him from doing harm. If anything it will make it easier since he now has a legal excuse to hide who he really is.

      1. You’re right to be more personally concerned with judges since they can affect your life. But the people in a given town are much more threatened by local half-wits who would like nothing more than to force their religion on everyone. Two-thirds of the horseshit that comes out of my state legislature is about forcing Jesus on everyone.

      2. Yeah, only angry mobs should be allowed to stop public officials from saying things!

  13. Just a couple points:

    When the Court decided Marsh v. Chambers, allowing legislative chaplains, *there were no Catholics on the bench.* This is the precedent the majority justices were applying.

    The dissenting justices thought Greece had gone too far, but their recommended solution gives little solace to the crowd which wants “eternal separation of Church and State.” From Kagan’s dissent:

    “If the Town Board had let its chaplains know that they should speak in nonsectarian terms, common to diverse religious groups, then no one would have valid grounds for complaint….Or if the Board preferred, it might have invited clergy of many faiths to serve as chaplains, as the majority notes that Congress does. See ante, at 10-11. When one month a clergy member refers to Jesus, and the next to Allah or Jehovah…the government does not identify itself with one religion or align itself with that faith’s citizens, and the effect of even sectarian prayer is transformed. So Greece had multiple ways of incorporating prayer into its town meetings”

    http://www2.bloomberglaw.com/p…..y_05_2014_

    Not much solace there to the hard-core secularists – instead of a bunch of Christian prayers, you get all the Sky Daddy bleevers taking turns insulting the rational and non-superstitious!

  14. My goodness how quickly all the hand-wringing about minority rights goes out the window here.

    There should be no prayers of any kind to any variety of sky fairy at any level of government in this country. Government is secular here. Soliciting divine intervention is not part of representatives’ job descriptions.

    Being forced to sit through incantations has never harmed me all that much, but if you are deeply religious and don’t share the faith being shoved at you, then not only is it possible that real offense is being inflicted, you’re being singled out as an outsider, which the establishment clause exists to prevent as its main function.

    1. Fine. But then don’t push government into every human equation, laundering a majority of the economic output of this country through taxation and regulation, and thereby chase those who need their ghosts and fairies to get through life into conflict with The State of Hope and Change. I’d think you’d understand, as hopelessly addicted as you are to your own superstitions, that so many of the feeble minded need their mirages. You simply swap one super-ordinate emptiness for another. You do as much morality pushing as any acolyte to a proper religion I’ve seen. Your Church is the State, and you’re as smug and snotty as any of the Righteous.

      1. I may be smug but I don’t worship anything. Your view is distorted because here we’re all inside the Church of the Market. I don’t advocate for anything all that radical, just a bit of shuffling around of government priorities (nowhere nearly as radical the shuffling libertarians advocate). Just doing what has proven to work. It is without question the libertarians who have a problem believing what they do and believing in the primacy of evidence at the same time, not me. And isn’t that descriptive of religion?

        1. Re: Tony,

          I may be smug but I don’t worship anything.

          You’re not being smug, you’re being completely dishonest – you worship the State.

          Your view is distorted because here we’re all inside the Church of the Market.

          The Market is what everybody calls the network made of the billions of trades and choices people make every day. It is a thing, a spontaneously-appearing system, not a being or an idea. Your idiocy is comparable only to the idiocy displayed by those that say people worship evolution, or geology.

          1. If the market is simply the spontaneous result of many interactions then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to assume that that outcome is optimal in a laissez-faire regime. Only if you assume the conclusion, i.e., only if you worship the market as an all-good being.

            1. Re: Tony,

              If the market is simply the spontaneous result of many interactions then there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to assume that that outcome is optimal in a laissez-faire regime.

              You’re begging the question. What is an “optimal outcome”?

              You have no clue, not even a hint of the subject, Tony. The optimal outcome will always be the choices people make, not something else. You can’t read minds and you cannot know what is best for everybody. Equilibrium models (form which charlatans and mountebanks come up with these “optimal outcomes”) do not represent and cannot pretend to represent people’s choices, at all.

              Only if you assume the conclusion,

              What conclusion would that be? The Market is what it is.

              1. You don’t get that you’re saying that you know what the optimal outcomes are, and they are whatever the free market produces? That is circular reasoning and it is no less declarative than what a central planner would claim.

                1. You don’t get that you’re saying that you know what the optimal outcomes are, and they are whatever the free market produces?

                  That statement is a non-sequitur. The outcomes that the market produces are the outcomes that the market produces. There is no way of knowing if they are “optimal” objectively. Value is subjective. You’re so incomprehensibly narrow minded in addition to utterly ignorant of the topic at hand that you simply can’t frame it outside of your viewpoint: that there is an objective “optimal outcome” and that some system of prescribed steps and processes will produce it. It’s almost like you haven’t noticed the last century and a half of central planning leading to unmitigated, abject failure of resource allocation.

    2. Re: Tony,

      My goodness how quickly all the hand-wringing about minority rights [sic] goes out the window here.

      You’re in the wrong tread, Tony. Or on drugs.

      There should be no prayers of any kind to any variety of sky fairy at any level of government in this country.

      Because the sky fairy might actually hear the prayers, perhaps? I don’t understand your preoccupation.

      Government is secular here.

      Besides murdering, ravaging and thieving, then yes.

      Soliciting divine intervention is not part of representatives’ job descriptions.

      Representatives are still citizens with Constitutionally-protected rights.

      Being forced to sit through incantations has never harmed me all that much,

      Were you in prison or something? What do you mean by “forced”?

      Learn to be less ridiculous in your rants, Tony. Maybe when you grow up, people will take you seriously.

      1. Where in the constitution does it say that government representatives have a right to force people to participate in prayers? By my reading it says exactly the opposite.

        Here’s how it’s force: What if I don’t want to sit through a religious ritual, but I have business before the town council? My choice is what? Not bring by business before them? Endure the ritual even though such a thing is clearly a violation of my religious rights? Yeah there’s some coercion going on there.

        I love how you pretend to be this stoic utopian but you just can’t bring yourself ever to disagree with Antonin Scalia no matter how anti-freedom and pro-majoritarian the opinion.

        1. Re: Tony,

          Where in the constitution does it say that government representatives have a right to force people to participate in prayers?

          Nowhere. Where in America are people compelled BY FORCE to participate in prayers? Stop equivocating, you prevaricating little twerp.

          Here’s how it’s force: What if I don’t want to sit through a religious ritual, but I have business before the town council?

          That’s not being forced. Being forced requires actual force.

          STOP EQUIVOCATING!

          My choice is what?

          You mean your options. Your options are: wait, read a book, close your eyes and sink into your happy place, leave and grab a smoke, play Angry Birds in your smartphone – there are literally a THOUSAND things you can do besides listen to a prayer. NOBODY IS FORCING YOU TO LISTEN. You’re simply WARPING the meaning of the word to suit your argument. That’s called EQUIVOCATING.

          1. Being forced requires actual force.

            Oh this is rich. Guess taxation is OK now.

            1. Oh this is rich. Guess taxation is OK now.

              Uhhh… you do realize if you don’t pay your taxes guys with guns will eventually show up on your porch and then put you in a cage right? Can you be arrested for looking at your crotch during the 2 minute prayer ceremony at the local town council? Doubt it.

              1. Well if you don’t pay your taxes then you are technically a thief. Do you think men with guns should respond to thieves? Not that they will if you don’t pay your taxes.

        2. If you are an atheist you HAVE no ‘religious rights’. You have no religion therefore you can have no rights that pertain to it.

  15. The main question that should be asked is what is so damn important that an invocation of ANY kind is necessary? Set back? Garbage pickup schedules? Building permits? I don’t have a problem with religiosity (I’ve come to accept that 95+% of the world is superstitious), and I don’t have a problem with christmas trees in the same zip code as a park. But I do have to wonder about the gravitas required for municipal doings that require such ceremonies. Get to the business of whatever is deemed to be cooperatively necessary and be done with it. It’s not so much about the specific combination(s), it’s the a priori “religiosity” vested into government by so many people. That’s when the issues over brand loyalty rears its head. BUT, this is the primary reason why State should be extremely limited in its business – if there should be a scrubbing of religiosity from State, then the State needs to then not intrude on the people’s religious freedom by being everywhere all the time. If bringing ghosts into the equation over water processing issues is necessary for some, they should be able to get the spirits on their side from the parking lot.

  16. Some of these pastors tell you to stand up and bow your heads to pray to Jesus, and what if you don’t believe that?

    Is this actually a thing? I have never been in a church where they stand up to pray.

    1. I have never been in a church where they stand up to pray

      Eastern Orthodox

      Standing and kneeling
      To express the respect and fear of God which is congruent with the worship of Him, Orthodox stand while in worship as if they were in the presence of a king. Originally women were designated to stand on one half of the church in front of the icon of the Mother of God while the men stood on the right side of the church in front of the icon of Christ, now however this is rarely done and worshippers simply stand in any open space in the Nave facing the altar and praying silently or singing as they stand. In most Orthodox churches, the congregants stand through the entire service with the exception of the elderly who may chose to sit in chairs or pews in the back of the church. Some Greek Orthodox Churches use pews in their churches. Kneeling is done in expression of penitence and deep compunction and is done almost exclusively during Lenten services. For instance, during the Pre-sanctified Liturgy (done only in Lent) when the Lord’s Prayer is said all people, clergy and laity, in the Church kneel. In contrast, no kneeling is ever done during the celebratory Paschal season. Orthodox Christians also kneel during some matins, vespers or other special services through the church year.

      1. Hey Ivan Pike,

        Now you know who and why some Christians stand up to pray. In fact, in some Eastern Orthodox Churches the congregation never sits down.

        1. Now you know who and why some Christians stand up to pray. In fact, in some Eastern Orthodox Churches the congregation never sits down.

          Are you under the impression that I don’t know this? Why do you think I posted this in answer to SD’s question?

    2. Never been to a Catholic mass apparently. We’re into kneeling as well.

  17. As Kagan wrote, someone in this position “must think ? it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth ? that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance.”

    “Has become,” as if it happened while she was sleeping or on vacation.

    The Pillsbury Doughgirl has shown her complete lack of understanding of American cultural history.

  18. But the Puritans didn’t come to America seeking religious freedom; they came seeking the chance to force their religion on others rather than have other religions forced on them.

    Moving to a wilderness with no other white inhabitants besides themselves was a funny way to “force their religion on others.” (Nor do I recall that they tried to outlaw the Indians’ practice of their own religion.)

    1. The reference is to their attitude toward dissenters in their own ranks (Ann Hutchinson (sp?)) and outsiders (eg, Quakers).

    2. (Nor do I recall that they tried to outlaw the Indians’ practice of their own religion.)

      Why go through the trouble of outlawing the Natives’ religions when you can just kill them, take their land and/or make them slaves for being lesser beings instead?

      Also, if Puritans were willing to burn their own for being “witches”, for some reason I do not think worship of the sun god would have been tolerated.

      1. Why go through the trouble of outlawing the Natives’ religions when you can just kill them, take their land and/or make them slaves for being lesser beings instead?

        None of which actually happened in the early Puritan colonies, but, uh… cool story, bro.

  19. The council claims it is open to different religious voices. But what if it were flooded with invocation requests from Muslims, pagans and Satanists? If the council members and other attendees had to regularly endure prayers they found obnoxious, rest assured, the invocation ritual would be eliminated.

    And if it wasn’t, would people like Chapman be satisfied? Not bloody likely. They’d start whining about how coercive it was to have *any* prayers at a public meeting, and how “excluded” it must make atheists feel.

    1. See above for the dissent’s suggestions – not much there to console the atheists.

      Unless some atheists form a church and get on the chaplain roster. Just throwing that out there.

  20. I long for the days when someone seriously wanting the governing body to take a moment and talk to an invisible, imaginary sky king will be laughed out of the room.

  21. Were I a religious person, I would find it incredibly insulting that a governing body would have the audacity to invoke the name of my god as they attempt to add credibility and solemnity to their proceedings.
    Within minutes of saying “Amen” or “Praise Jesus” they will be making a further mockery of the vapid and routine words of the prayer they just bowed their heads to.

    1. An act of Confession would be appropriate after the meeting.

  22. I guess people aren’t big fans of the right of self-determination.

    I don’t view this any differently than I do hippies living on a commune. At some point you have to let people organize themselves how they want. Spontaneous order and all.

  23. It is nothing but free speech, you don’t have to pay any attention, I surely don’t.

  24. Excellent article. It’s too bad that Town Meetings, or any other kind of public meetings for that matter, have to have any prayers at all by any religion. People (especially Americans) forget that the United States of America is not a Christian country, any more than it is (not) a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or any other kind of religion nation. People can believe and worship as they please. The places for that are called Private Homes, Mosques and so on. Town Hall Meetings, and meetings along those lines are secular affairs and not religious ceremonies.

    1. The places for that are called Private Homes, Mosques and so on.

      Yeah, uh, no. The protected exercise of one’s religion is not confined to his private space, anymore than the protected exercise of one’s speech is so confined. The 1A is a pretty short read. You should give it a look some time.

    2. Thanks for sharing. And if you get enough people to vote your way, you can put an end to those prayers. The question before the Court, however, was not whether those prayers were a good idea. It was whether they were unconstitutional. Quite a different issue.

  25. I’m unfamiliar with the details of this case, is it entirely impossible to show up 30s – 2 min. late and completely omit the prayer? Or do they lock the doors and anyone not present can’t bring issues before the council? Or do you have to swear on a bible to testify before the council or even to get on a/the agenda?

    Or is this a situation where taking 30s – 2 min. of the community’s time is a clear and cruelly oppressive violation public accommodation but using the rule of law to force someone to make a wedding cake against their will is precisely why the CRA is distinct from the 1st Am. to begin with?

  26. “And if you refuse to stand up and bow your head, you stand out. It’s a coercive situation.”

    co?erce
    [koh-urs] Show IPA
    verb (used with object), co?erced, co?erc?ing.
    1.
    to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition: They coerced him into signing the document.
    2.
    to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact: to coerce obedience.
    3.
    to dominate or control, especially by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.: The state is based on successfully coercing the individual.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    1. Fuck. Get your imaginary friends out of my public spaces. Where is the libertarian site? Apparently this is just another right-wing bullshit factory.

      1. Nobody is coercing you when they bring their “imaginary friends” to your public spaces. Yet you seem to want to coerce the participants in public ceremonies.

      2. Fuck. Get your imaginary notions of love out of my public spaces.

        I think this every June when the city of Chicago throws homosexuals a parade.

  27. By Chapman’s first three lines, it is clear he is no originalist and forgets that the role of the Supreme Court is to interpret the constitution rather than provide their own policy preferences. His summary of religious history is exactly correct. And it is for the reason that the Constitution does not command his policy preferences. The First Amendment as understood by those who passed it certainly does not prohibit the council’s behavior. I would, however, support a (state) law that prohibits it.

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