SCOTUS Denies Cert in Graduation in Church Case


The Supreme Court has denied cert in a case where the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an en banc hearing, ruled 7-3 that a public school violated the Establishment Clause by holding graduation ceremonies in a church. But Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Thomas, wrote a rare dissent from the decision to hear the case (usually cert is denied without comment from the court).

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

My own aversion cannot be imposed by law because of the First Amendment. Certain of this Court’s cases, however, have allowed the aversion to religious displays to be enforced directly through the First Amendment, at least in public facilities and with respect to public ceremonies—this despite the fact that the First Amendment explicitly favors religion and is, so to speak, agnostic about music.

This is the typical sophistry we have become accustomed to from Scalia. The First Amendment certainly favors the free exercise of religion, but that is a right of individuals and it has absolutely nothing to do with what a government agency, like a public school, can and can’t do. That is governed by the Establishment Clause. Scalia knows this, of course, just as he knows that his comparison to music is absurd because the constitution says nothing about a separation between music and state.

It is important to note that the 7th Circuit ruling did not rule that it’s always unconstitutional to hold a public school graduation ceremony in a church. The ruling was fact-specific.

Comments

  1. hunter says

    Scalia’s one of those who seems to believe that the Free Exercise Clause trumps everything else in the Constitution.

    Unless it’s someone else trying to exercise their beliefs.

  2. D. C. Sessions says

    I wonder if any of the Jews on the Court pointed out that the Orthodox are forbidden by their religion to enter a place of idolatry (which a Christian church is — just look at the crucifixes all over the place.) So it looks like even under the Thomas/Scalia definition of “free exercise” to include the School Board, or maybe the Legislature, there’s still a Free Exercise violation here.

    Unless, of course, you define the strictures of every religion but that of the RCC as overly tender sensibilities being offended.

  3. says

    Scalia’s music analogy falls apart when you consider that there’s difference hearing rock music being played and being told you must participate in a rock concert in order to get your high school diploma. That’s where your “free exercise” conflicts with the establishment clause.

  4. says

    This is the typical sophistry we have become accustomed to from Scalia. The First Amendment certainly favors the free exercise of religion, but that is a right of individuals and it has absolutely nothing to do with what a government agency, like a public school, can and can’t do. That is governed by the Establishment Clause.

    Look, it’s not an Establishment violation if representatives of the State are using their position to share their own Free Exercise privileges over others by force. That’s just common sense. More specifically, my common sense.

     

    The [7th court] ruling was fact-specific.

    Well, there’s your problem right there.

  5. John Pieret says

    offended by public displays of religion

    Which, of course, is not the issue. Many religious people are not “offended” by a prayer to open a town board meeting or to open a public school graduation but, nonetheless, do not want the government deciding what prayer to pray. Some even oppose it because they respect the Constitution, unlike Scalia, who considers it just a Rorschach test in which he can discern his own prejudices and politics and ignore any part of it he doesn’t like.

  6. rbh3 says

    I’m more and more optimistic that the Court will also deny cert in the Freshwater case.

  7. JustaTech says

    My (private) high school graduation was in a church, because our school was so small that there was no way that everyone would fit in the ‘gym’. The church was nearby, I’m hoping it was cheap, and I don’t recall that there was any praying (except by me that it be over because I had a nasty cold and a sunburn). But! That was a private school.

    I could almost see the 7th Court ruling specifically on this case (rather than broadly) in order to leave the option of a church *as a building* open in cases where there are no other suitable locations for a graduation, but at the same time I would think those cases (fire, tornado, etc) would be few and far between.

    Scalia, on the other hand, has some seriously stupid reasonong going on there.

  8. says

    How the ever-loving fuck did Scalia manage to get on the bench with that severe a lack of reasoning and disregard for the fucking Constitution? More importantly, why can’t we kick him off?

  9. gshelley says

    So putting aside the music nonsense, his basic complaint is that they just ruled that the government can impose Christianity on people as long as they don’t threaten them about it or make them take part directly, so should be able to do it with children as well?

  10. gshelley says

    As I can’t edit – It almost seems like he thinks his concurrence was the majority opinion

  11. abb3w says

    @12ish, WMDKitty — Survivor

    How the ever-loving fuck did Scalia manage to get on the bench with that severe a lack of reasoning and disregard for the fucking Constitution?

    By seeming the epitome of eloquence, restraint, moderation, and especially sanity in comparison to Robert Bork, whose withdrawn nomination he replaced.

    @12ish, WMDKitty — Survivor

    More importantly, why can’t we kick him off?

    Because the authors of the constitution chose to insulate the federal judiciary from politics via lifetime tenure. The theoretical recourse of impeachment is impractical, because there’s not enough votes in the House to draft a political impeachment, and not enough votes in the Senate to convict on such a political impeachment were a bill to get through the House anyway. Assassination is impractical, because aside from the obvious problems with illegality, immorality, and the horrible political precedent that would result, the Secret Service is quite competent at their jobs; and even if you managed it, such an overt outrage would trigger massive pressure from the conservatives in the Senate to reject any nominee more liberal than Scalia.

    If you do happen to have the money lying around for a hit man (and presuming the bill for Scalia would be comparable to the ~$20k for a mafia capo — hitman bills vary), I’d suggest instead calling the Domino’s Pizza on Chain Bridge Road, and arranging a daily delivery of an extra-large stuffed crust sausage-bacon-and-pepperoni pizza with triple cheese to his home for a couple years. The odds are the Secret Service agents will bravely step between him and the pizza, and stop by to ask you some pointed questions, but you might at least be able to provoke an interesting lawsuit about the limits of free speech.

  12. says

    WWDkItty: In all honesty (heh, heh, heh), while Scalia has always been a conservative, the stupidity didn’t begin until after he got the job, and has been growing ever since.

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