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Greece v Galloway Ruling: Predictable But Very Dangerous

Monday morning the Supreme Court released its ruling in Greece v Galloway, which involved the question of “sectarian” prayers at local government meetings. The result was a predictable ruling that poses a great danger to the idea of separation of church and state. You can read the full ruling here.

One of the key dangers in the ruling is that it ignored the Lemon test completely and also ignored the endorsement test favored by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The ruling was based largely on the coercion test instead, though there was disagreement among the majority as to how narrowly to define that test. Lyle Denniston of ScotusBlog explains:

Narrowly defining what is not allowed in such prayers, the Court said they may not be used to praise the virtues of one faith and may not cast other faiths or other believers in a sharply negative light. Courts have no role in judging whether individual prayers satisfy that test, but can only examine a “pattern of prayer” to see whether it crossed the forbidden constitutional line and became a form of “coercion.”

The majority clearly moved the “coercion” test to the forefront of analyzing when government and religion are too closely intertwined. The alternative test — whether government action “endorsed” a particular faith — was nearly cast aside as taking too little account of the role of religion in America’s history and civic traditions.

The Court’s majority was divided in the case, but only on how “coercion” is to be defined in a constitutional sense. Three Justices said that test is satisfied if a town’s governing body ordered the public to join in prayer, criticized “dissidents” who did not share the prayer’s beliefs, or indicated that official action would be or was influenced by whether someone did or did not take part in the prayer exercise. That group spoke through the lead opinion, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — long an advocate of the “coercion” approach and long a critic of the “endorsement” test. His plurality opinion was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Two Justices argued that a “coercion” test would be satisfied only if a local government had actually compelled people to be followers of one faith, such as requiring people to go to religious services or to pay taxes to pay for religious institutions. They spoke through an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia on that point alone.

Thomas and Scalia have long argued that the only thing that violates the Establishment Clause is actual coercion by the government. Roberts and Alito haven’t had much opportunity to rule on EC cases until now so it was unclear exactly what position they would favor, but this is a very disturbing basis for the decision. If the only thing the government can’t do is coerce religious exercise, it is free to provide a huge range of support for religion aside from that.

Couple this with the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get taxpayer standing to challenge government spending to support religion and you now have very few limits on the kinds of support the government can now give to religion. The range of government actions that are now considered a violation of the Establishment Clause is much narrower now than it was before the ruling and that is a very bad thing.

Kennedy also based much of his reasoning on tradition, noting that the first congress hired a Christian chaplain and that this practice has gone on continually since then. Well yes, but if tradition is the test of what is allowed then why doesn’t Kennedy say that legislative bodies should be free to hire a specifically Christian chaplain and have him deliver only Christian prayers? This case involved rotating prayers by members of local churches and Kennedy goes out of his way to say that there’s nothing unconstitutional about it because the process if open to non-Christians even if few of them ever actually do give the invocations. But if tradition is the test, why should they even be required to do that? The first congress did not give the opportunity for Muslims, Jews or any other religious person to say the prayer. It seems that tradition only goes so far.

It’s a good idea, I think, to look at what James Madison said about this practice in his Detached Memoranda:

Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom?

In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.

If Religion consist in voluntary acts of individuals, singly, or voluntarily associated, and it be proper that public functionaries, as well as their Constituents shd discharge their religious duties, let them like their Constituents, do so at their own expence. How small a contribution from each member of Congs wd suffice for the purpose? How just wd it be in its principle? How noble in its exemplary sacrifice to the genius of the Constitution; and the divine right of conscience? Why should the expence of a religious worship be allowed for the Legislature, be paid by the public, more than that for the Ex. or Judiciary branch of the Govt

This reasoning is all the more important today when we are a far more religiously diverse country than we were in 200 years ago.

Comments

  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    What happens when “Ceremonial Deism” becomes obviously non-deist?

  2. eric says

    @1 – we have now left the land of ceremonial deism. Kennedy’s opinion states that it would create too much entanglement between religion and the state for the state to have to decide what counts as a ‘nonsectarian’ prayer, so sectarian prayers are now allowed.

    Somewhat related to this case is this analysis of justice voting patterns. Turns out, all of them are biased in favor of the sort of speech they agree with, though the liberals are somewhat less biased than the conservatives.

  3. Trebuchet says

    Note that the majority consisted of five Catholics and the dissent of three Jews and one Catholic.

  4. steve84 says

    The Roberts court will probably turn out to be the most overturned court in history in a couple of decades.

  5. says

    The alternative test — whether government action “endorsed” a particular faith — was nearly cast aside as taking too little account of the role of religion in America’s history and civic traditions.

    Infuriating.

    It’s a good idea, I think, to look at what James Madison said about this practice in his Detached Memoranda:…

    Yes!

  6. colnago80 says

    Re steve84 @ #4

    I wouldn’t count on that. If Jeb Bush were to be elected in 2016, given that it is likely that Ginsburg won’t make it to 2020 and quite possibly Breyer won’t either, Bush would replace them with Roberts/Alito clones. Even if Thomas and Scalia also left, they would also be replaced by the above clones if Bush were to win the 2016 election. I have had an extensive argument with a putz calling himself Ben Goren on Jerry Coyne’s blog on this topic and people that think like he does are all to prevalent on the left.

    http://goo.gl/8f63tV

  7. raven says

    I’m speechless and this isn’t even an aural medium. Just OMICthulhu, WTH!!!

  8. says

    @ 4,
    Do you think President Palin (Bristol, that is) is going to be appointing radical judges to the Supreme Court who would legislate from the bench, thus overturning these decisions at a later date?
    No! She will appoint good, God-fearing justices who will rule according to the Bible. All court decisions will be based on that book, just as Washington, Jefferson and Paine intended.
    Everybody knows that the Constitution and DofE come directly from the Bible. So it only makes sense to eliminate the middleman and go directly to the Bible for all of our laws. Or at least the new, corrected version being composed by Andy Schlafly.

  9. raven says

    Whatever. I’m not Cliven Bundy so I’m not about to run 900 head of cattle through the Supreme Court.

    1. They don’t pray before government meetings out here. That I know of anyway and I’ve been to many city, county, and state meetings. It wouldn’t surprise me if they do in out of way places like the deserts and Orange county though.

    2. If they do, I’m not going to say anything. Or do anything. Including playing along. I’m just going to sit there and look around and roll my eyes a lot.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    steve84 @ 4

    The Roberts court will probably turn out to be the most overturned court in history in a couple of decades.

    Given how much the country is swinging toward fascism (Sorry, liberals. Just because Obama won last time doesn’t mean that the right-wing has been defeated.) I doubt we’ll have an opportunity to revisit those cases ever again.

  11. raven says

    It is no secret US xianity is dying, killed off by the fundies. They are losing 2 million members a year.

    The brighter among them know it. All they have to do is count and look around.

    The fangs and claws are coming out now. It’s going to be an ugly few decades and an ugly death.

    The Supreme court isn’t even trying to look like anything other than a partisan playground.

    The Roberts court will probably turn out to be the most overturned court in history in a couple of decades.

    Maybe.

    1. You are assuming there will be a recognizable USA in a few decades. Thanks to a lot of centrifugal forces, not least the Supreme court, there might not be.

    2. It is quite likely though. For some values of a few decades. It could be more like 4 or 5 decades though, or even longer.

    At some point it becomes irrelevant to a lot of us. As a Boomer, I don’t expect to live more than another decade or two at the most.

  12. Synfandel says

    Do city councilors show up at churches and start reading minutes from council meetings?

  13. Randomfactor says

    Here in Bakersfield they pray before City Council meetings and aren’t shy about using the J-word. At least one of the councilmembers is quite literally incapable of serving effectively–though that’s not a disqualification here.

    I expect this decision will almost immediately be cited in reversing the recent sanity in Pismo Beach, CA, where the city government stopped doing invocations due to complaints.

  14. says

    I think we atheists are going to need to start resorting to loud guffaws (in honor of the god pan) whenever someone starts ‘ceremonial deist’ prayers.

  15. says

    You are assuming there will be a recognizable USA in a few decades.

    There will be huge changes when New York, New Orleans, Miami, Orlando, and Boston begin to go underwater, for sure. Doubtless there will be a certain amount of “tightening up” across the board when that starts happening.

  16. says

    No coercion, huh?

    When they start with the prayin’ thing, interrupt by standing up and asking why they are violating the Constitution. I bet you’ll see some coercion then.

  17. Trebuchet says

    The Roberts court will probably turn out to be the most overturned court in history in a couple of decades.

    Except that it’s more likely to be Obamacare and DOMA that get overturned than this turd.

  18. cjcolucci says

    Given the Marsh decision, which even the dissenters said was good law, there was no other way this could come out. You can’t permit one government body to have prayer and have another government body monitor the suitability of the prayers. While you could conceivably police a practice of deliberate exclusion of minority religions or non-religions from the opportunity to lead prayers, most of this sort of thing goes on in places so religiously homogeneous that you wouldn’t have to bother.

  19. Michael Heath says

    Ed reports:

    Thomas and Scalia have long argued that the only thing that violates the Establishment Clause is actual coercion by the government.

    Who cares? Prayer by government violates the religious freedom of those in the audience.

    The court has it bassackwards when it threads a camel through the eye of the establishment needle [not]. That while avoiding that when government prays, my rights and that of every secularist are being infringed upon by the very entity obligated to instead defend those rights.

    The majority’s opinion is an exercise in absurdity. Why not just honestly admit what they’re doing? “Fuck ‘em, we want the government to promote Christianity, especially if it’s at the expense of secularists and believers of other faiths.

    This morning when this ruling was announced I went over to the WSJ comment section to see what the ditto-heads had to say; they loved it. Not that they’re all that religious over there, they’re more secular conservatives. Instead I think their antipathy of liberals is so large they like sticking it to us, even when it means a deprivation of protection of their own rights. Kind of like the GOP seeking to obstruct President Obama during the crash to make him look bad at the expense of all of us – even themselves.

  20. Michael Heath says

    steve84 writes:

    The Roberts court will probably turn out to be the most overturned court in history in a couple of decades.

    I think the same. But it chaps my ass they’re getting away with such outrageously bad arguments now.

    Some civil disobedience may be in order here. Interrupt such prayers by proclaiming our rights are being infringed upon by those who swore an oath to instead protect those rights.

  21. says

    Slavery was a tradition, denying women & minorities the right to vote was (still is, some places) a tradition.

    “Tradition” should have no place in interpreting people’s rights, because traditionally we’ve been incredibly shitty at it.

  22. Reginald Selkirk says

    Marcus Ranum #15: I think we atheists are going to need to start resorting to loud guffaws (in honor of the god pan) whenever someone starts ‘ceremonial deist’ prayers.

    Uh, right. Then immediately after laughing at their religious proclamations, I’ll need to be asking them for a zoning variance on my lot. How do you think that’s going to go

  23. says

    They need to look at this an entirely different way: Justify yourselves whenever you want to edge towards the Separation Clause. Why bring your prayers here? Pray before you come. Do you interrupt every business meeting for prayer? Do you do this at the stock exchanges when they open? (We already know you like to shove it into other community activities, like sports, but that is just another questionable act, not a justification for prayers in gov meetings.)

    Tradition is bullshit. Just because governments traditionally violate any number of laws, it is not a reason to ignore the laws. And you make it very difficult to challenge such things when anyone challenging their governments is ignored or threatened while the governments are busy instituting new illegal traditions. (Regardless what a handful of lawyers managed to cook up saying that x isn’t illegal.

    Also, it seems like the people who frequently want “less government meddling in their affairs”, etc., are the ones who like to bring their shit into government functions, like prayer. Funny, that.

  24. zenlike says

    20 cjcolucci

    most of this sort of thing goes on in places so religiously homogeneous that you wouldn’t have to bother.

    In places with an overwhelming homogeneous religious majority you should especially bother to guard the rights of the small minority against the majority.

    On another note, this is now even becoming news over here in Europe. Yep, we Europeans are now seeing the USA becoming more and more a theocracy. And it’s not really funny, seeing who holds most of the guns and bombs.

  25. Scr... Archivist says

    Maybe it’s time we started asking which denomination is the established religion of each state and local government. Then we look at how people who are not members of that denomination are discriminated against by those governments.

    Meanwhile, start passing laws to prohibit government-sponsored prayers wherever we can do so.

  26. zenlike says

    24 Reginald Selkirk

    Uh, right. Then immediately after laughing at their religious proclamations, I’ll need to be asking them for a zoning variance on my lot.

    Actually, that might not be such a bad idea: go to the council meeting with a perfectly acceptable proposal*, preferably when a very similar proposal was granted the week before, and laugh in their faces during the prayer. Then, when it is denied, go to court, and explain that the denial clearly shows government coercion. Throw their bullshit right back into their faces.

    * Preferably for something you don’t actually want, because the legal process might be a long and unfruitful one.

  27. chrisdevries says

    I agree with steve84. These rulings will almost certainly be overturned, the sooner the better. It’s not going to be a pretty few decades though, as raven mentions. As the Nones increase in number, and the fundamentalists start realising that a majority of Americans stand in opposition to their authoritarian values, mark my words that there will be a concerted effort to circle the wagons and implement policies in overt defiance of federal law and the Constitution. I suspect they (religious right) will try to assert their primacy (along with the illegitimacy of the US government) in the places where they are still a plurality of the population, and create laws that essentially enshrine a two-tier citizenship in those states, so they can hold onto power as long as possible. Kind of like a racial-religious apartheid system. And when the federal government and legal authorities like the Supreme Court try to stop them it could, combined with the economic instability of a dying empire, cause irreparable schisms to take place. USA, United no more.

  28. Michael Heath says

    Eugene Volokh’s blog post on this ruling merely reports on the opinion, he doesn’t opine on it. He does make one notable observation:

    Justice Thomas repeated his view that the Establishment Clause should not be seen as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment against the states, no other Justice joined that view.

    Link: http://goo.gl/AR1FLX

  29. says

    The way to fight back, I think, is to create a formal Atheist Clergy that demands their turn at the Chaplaincy. The g*dbots will fight tooth and nail to keep the Atheist Clergy from speaking and set themselves up for litigation they cannot win.

    “Let us pray, not that it does any good. Dear invisible, wrathful, supposedly mind-reading entity that has much in common with other things that don’t exist, please quit subjecting humanity to mosquitos and other such evils and please forgive us for wanking just lately. Because we know that All-Powerful mind-reading entities care a lot about wanking. And Dear Lord, just once could you buy the beer? That’s if gods have money. If you don’t, well, that’s OK. Amen.”

  30. Sastra says

    Three Justices said that test is satisfied if a town’s governing body ordered the public to join in prayer, criticized “dissidents” who did not share the prayer’s beliefs, or indicated that official action would be or was influenced by whether someone did or did not take part in the prayer exercise.

    “Let us pray.”

    No, no hint of coercion there. And don’t worry. The criticism and discrimination towards those who don’t pray will no doubt be muted — unless they object out loud. After all, those types have no power; it’s not really their place, is it? The nonbelievers are in someone else’s territory. WE THE PEOPLE are praying.

    Very frustrating.

  31. says

    @ Sastra

    No, no hint of coercion there.

    Exactly. Those three words “Let Us Pray” are inherently coercive. They demand you shut up, bow your head and go along with the nonsense, like it or not. Sermons and prayers are NOT to be interrupted under any circumstances, not even because of extreme boredom or extreme bullshit.

    To stand up and say “Can we skip this and get to the business of government?” would not go well for the stander-upper at all.

  32. jaybee says

    Are the five justices in the majority really this dense? Being the one person in the room who refuses to praise Jesus along with the the rest of the citizenry will likely result in the abstainer to have a significantly negative standing in the community that they are about to interact with.

    This is identical to the case for not having prayer in the classroom, even if 90% of the kids are Christian and the 10% are permitted to leave the room or just remain quiet, it singles out the minority for subsequent maltreatment.

  33. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    What someone says ‘Let us pray’ make the reply ‘No, let us not’.

    This is a ludicrous ruling when you consider that the type of business that could come up at the planning committee would include decisions of planning permission for mosques and temples. Given recent hate speech against Muslims from Christians, a planning process that begins with a prayer would seem to be overtly biased.

    As with all the Roberts court decisions, they will survive only as long as Scalia’s heart holds out and Thomas manages to avoid prosecution for taking bribes through his ‘consultant’ wife who takes money from people with business before the court. Kennedy isn’t exactly a spring chicken either.

    President Santorum could choose the successor to Ginsberg and the three Reagan/Bush era judges but it is far more likely that Hillary or some other Democrat will be making the choices. And once one of the hard right ideologues is gone there will be far less incentive for the others to stay. Who is going to be hiring Ginny for ‘consulting’ if her hubby can only deliver a dissent?

    The court is quite likely to have a 6:3 or even 7:2 liberal tilt by 2020. Originalism, aka ‘whatever fat Tony feels like’ is going to be dead at that point. More significantly, 2020 is around the time that Texas starts to turn purple which could well force a major change of strategy on the GOP. The Fox News generation is dying out.

  34. John Pieret says

    What worries me most about this decision is that it is Kennedy basically saying that tradition overrules the plain wording of the Constitution. What is the favorite argument of the anti-same-sex-marriage bigots? That traditionally marriage has been between a man and a woman. Can he base one denial of constitutional rights on tradition and ignore tradition in another?

  35. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    As I noted over at Ophelia’s: Is there any chance that a Muslim American organization will demand prayers to “Allah” on a regular basis?

  36. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @7. colnago80 :

    Re steve84 @ #4 I wouldn’t count on that. If Jeb Bush were to be elected in 2016, ..

    That’s pretty big if – indeed any Republican winning 2016 still is.

    .. given that it is likely that Ginsburg won’t make it to 2020 ..

    I’m amazed she’s made it this far and is still serving given she’s 81 – although I gather the record is 90! I would think that Ginsberg could likely retire before Obama leaves office and thud get replaced by him presumably with another liberal.

    .. and quite possibly Breyer won’t either, Bush would replace them with Roberts/Alito clones. Even if Thomas and Scalia also left, they would also be replaced by the above clones if Bush were to win the 2016 election.

    Same applies to Breyer (aged 75) whilst I wouldn’t be surprised if Scalia departed in next few years under Obama too.

    If Obama appoints a couple of new young justices it should keep the Supreme court liberal balanced for a another decade or so at least perhaps into the 2030’s even. By then I would imagine given demographics and political trends the Tea Party movement will be long gone and the USA generally much more liberal than present even the Republicans relative to now.

  37. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    I think the “Underton Window” opposite the “Overton” one is winning more generally and not just here on FTB where it has shifted so far to the Left relative to the political Centre we probably get a very biased view and think things are a lot more right wing generally than they really are.

    I think I recall readings someone – Mike Moore’s books – that the US actually is a lot more liberal than Congress and some of its other political institutions would suggest. Political inertia and the fact that change incl. generational does take time to become really apparent explains a lot here methinks.

  38. mikeyb says

    I’m less bothered by this than things like Citizen’s United which have put our country for sale to the highest bidder. It is a form of establishment and coercion. Imagine a politician who decided to walk out for a few minutes during an opening prayer. It would be a perfect weapon to use in an election. Even if every one thinks it is meaningless bombastic nonsense. If a majority thinks you are anti-religious, your political future is toast. Orwell would be proud.

  39. zmidponk says

    I thought the whole point was the government basically stayed silent about religion, except to prevent other people’s efforts to exercise their religion infringing on your right to exercise yours (or lack of religion, as the case may be). This ruling seems to make out that the government is free to quite openly establish and endorse a religion or group of religions as ‘government approved’ or ‘government preferred’, and thus passively coerce citizens into following it/them, as long as it doesn’t actively coerce citizens by actually discriminating against them. It would seem to me that, if this is accurate, the First Amendment should be rewritten to read, “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  40. Ichthyic says

    a putz calling himself Ben Goren

    yup.

    Ben tried his hand commenting on Pharyngula a few years back and had his ass summarily handed to him, whereupon he then went on a crusade on Jerry’s blog for months.. YEARS… afterwards criticizing everything PZ ever has said… as if it had anything to do with why he got his ass handed to him here.

    It’s sad Jerry likes him so much. His arguments are often shallow and ill conceived, but he makes a good yes man for Jerry I guess.

  41. Ichthyic says

    I think the “Underton Window” opposite the “Overton”

    I do hope that was just supposed to be a bad joke?

    It surely reeks of ignorance.

  42. Ichthyic says

    2020 is around the time that Texas starts to turn purple

    …again.

    it used to be blue not so long ago; just a little over a couple of decades really.

  43. says

    Narrowly defining what is not allowed in such prayers, the Court said they may not be used to praise the virtues of one faith and may not cast other faiths or other believers in a sharply negative light.

    Look out people. Criticism of religion has just become illegal in certain venues. Even though the court says they won’t judge merits of individual prayers, the fact that restrictions on speech against religious ideas has been approved by the SC terrifies me. We all know that irreligious comments will be scrutinized far more than proselytizing ones.

  44. eric says

    Reginald Selkirk @24:

    Marcus Ranum #15: I think we atheists are going to need to start resorting to loud guffaws (in honor of the god pan) whenever someone starts ‘ceremonial deist’ prayers.

    Uh, right. Then immediately after laughing at their religious proclamations, I’ll need to be asking them for a zoning variance on my lot. How do you think that’s going to go

    IMO this exchange perfectly captures the essence of why the Supreme Court got this case wrong, and the coercive nature of “voluntary” public meeting prayer.

  45. eric says

    Mikeyb @40:

    I’m less bothered by this than things like Citizen’s United which have put our country for sale to the highest bidder.

    Roberts and Alito used the same logic in both. There they declared an extremely narrow definition of “corruption” which basically only includes quid pro quo exchanges of money for favors. Here they declared an extremely narrow definition of “coercion” which basically only includes a government official ordering you to pray or denigrating your religion.

    I don’t want to go all chicken little and extrapolate grandly about what this sort of strategy might mean for future cases, but I very much hope they don’t use this logic to narrowly construe minority rights or liberal concepts in other areas. Imagine if they equally narrowly interpret ‘police brutality,’ or ‘sexual assault,’ for example.

  46. says

    I think we atheists are going to need to start resorting to loud guffaws (in honor of the god pan) whenever someone starts ‘ceremonial deist’ prayers.

    I’m more in favor of loudly shouting “OOOOODIIIIINNN!!!” just as the “ceremonial deist” droning begins. Then take note of how the meeting goes after the prayer, to see whose prayer is rewarded and whose punished.

  47. TxSkeptic says

    How can you be surprised at all by a court, that sees billions of dollars spent by lobbyists as not creating even the appearance of corruption, that they would not see ‘ceremonial prayer’ as a problem.

    Of course, if the decision had gone strongly the other way, we would be hearing endless cries about activist judges from the Faux crowd. It would become the courts Bengazi for months, if not years.

  48. colnago80 says

    Re StevoR @ #38

    The trouble is that, if the Rethuglicans capture the Senate in 2014, a not unlikely possibility, they won’t approve anybody who Obama would appoint, particularly as a replacement for Scalia or Kennedy.

    Re Ihcthyic @ #42

    Coyne and Myers are rather intolerant of dissent. This is in contrast to Ed Brayton who only bans true assholes like Robert O’Brian. By the way, it is my impression that Goren currently resides somewhere in South America so I am unimpressed with his getting all bent out of shape over politics in the US.

  49. A Masked Avenger says

    Akira MacKenzie, #11:

    Given how much the country is swinging toward fascism (Sorry, liberals. Just because Obama won last time doesn’t mean that the right-wing has been defeated.)

    Uh, Obama is the father of the doctrine that the President can kill anyone he wants to, on his say-so alone, by first declaring them enemies of the state. Obama is not a speed bump on the road to fascism; he’s one of the drivers taking us there.

  50. A Masked Avenger says

    Reginald Selkirk, #24:

    Uh, right. Then immediately after laughing at their religious proclamations, I’ll need to be asking them for a zoning variance on my lot. How do you think that’s going to go

    THIS. They are effectively creating a situation in which you must not only tolerate the council’s exercise of religion, but, if you want to get anywhere asking the council for anything, must pretend to some degree to conform.

    Someone in one of these threads (since this ruling is all over FTB) likened it to offering a pinch of incense to Caesar: it was a demonstration of civic piety as much as anything else, but failing to do so marked one as an antisocial atheist (which in those days meant anyone who disparaged any gods, and was the usual charge against Christians).

    Given that Christians like the symbolism of prayer as incense, they are metaphorically doing the exact same thing: saying you can believe what you want, as long as you offer a pinch of incense to Jesus at civic meetings. Failing to do so will get you animosity at the meeting, and possibly social and economic ostracism afterward.

  51. Alverant says

    Alito’s own logic says the practice is unconstitional.

    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/another-blow-separation-church-and-state-supreme-court-rules-town-can-begin

    “Not only is there no historical support for the proposition that only generic prayer is allowed, but as our country has become more diverse, composing a prayer that is acceptable to all members of the community who hold religious beliefs has become harder and harder,” Alito wrote. “It was one thing to compose a prayer that is acceptable to both Christians and Jews; it is much harder to compose a prayer that is also acceptable to followers of Eastern religions that are now well represented in this country. Many local clergy may find the project daunting, if not impossible, and some may feel that they cannot in good faith deliver such a vague prayer.”

    Then the solution is simple, don’t deliver any prayer whatsoever! If you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all. This is 100 %judicial activism.

  52. A Masked Avenger says

    F, #25:

    Also, it seems like the people who frequently want “less government meddling in their affairs”, etc., are the ones who like to bring their shit into government functions, like prayer. Funny, that.

    Ignoring the gray area between conservatives and libertarians, I think this causes little cognitive dissonance because government intrusion is transparent when it forces you to do what you already would have done. If the government went around forcing everyone to make the same decisions as I do, then I’m essentially unaffected by this–so much so that I’m likely to be oblivious to its very existence. It’s actually a form of privilege, with the same blind spot that all privilege entails.

  53. Crimson Clupeidae says

    What needs to happen is enough people show up at the various meetings around the country and record the first few minutes. Enough to capture the overtly xian prayers that will inevitably be the only real option.

    Also, record the reactions of the board/council/whatever to people who leave during the prayers.

    Of course, this is one of the majorities’ goals: to make it so hard to prove that they are being coercive that it takes years and years of documenting, and a new SCOTUS makeup, to get any of this overturned.

    In the meantime, they get all the privileges…..

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