Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

5/8/2014 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Many media reports indicated the somehow the High Court

On Monday, May 5, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in an important case involving the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, Town of Greece v Galloway. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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.
What is of particular importance in this important Supreme Court opinion has not come through clearly in many media reports. Nor has it been clear in much of the commentary on the Supreme Court opinion. That is why I am weighing in on the matter.

The US Supreme Court rejected the contemporary misguided notion that has often led to the changing of the content of prayers to somehow accommodate the perceived obligation to respect the pluralistic nature of the population. The majority opinion noted that the prayers in Greece, New York, reflected the population in Greece, New York. The majority opined - The decidedly Christian nature of these prayers must not be dismissed as the relic of a time when our Nation was less pluralistic than it is today.

The US Supreme Court rejected the contemporary misguided notion that has often led to the changing of the content of prayers to somehow accommodate the perceived obligation to respect the pluralistic nature of the population. The majority opinion noted that the prayers in Greece, New York, reflected the population in Greece, New York. The majority opined - The decidedly Christian nature of these prayers must not be dismissed as the relic of a time when our Nation was less pluralistic than it is today.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/8/2014 (11 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: prayer, establishment clause, free exercise, E.W. Jackson, Supreme Court, Lemon Test, Greece v Galloway, Justice Kennedy, Deacon Keith Fournier


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - On Monday, May 5, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in an important case involving the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, Town of Greece v Galloway.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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

What is of particular importance in this important Supreme Court opinion has not come through clearly in many media reports. Nor has it been clear in much of the commentary on the Supreme Court opinion.

That is why I am weighing in on the matter.

Many media reports indicated the somehow the High Court "upheld" prayer before legislative and governmental meetings - such as prayers before Congressional sessions or town council meetings. That fact is that such prayers are a longstanding part of our history and have been upheld before.

The seminal case was the 1983 Supreme Court opinion in Marsh v Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983). In that case the US Supreme Court upheld the practice of starting legislative sessions with a prayer and opined that it has been a longstanding part of the American tradition dating back to the First Congress.

What has developed over the years since the Marsh opinion has been a mistaken notion concerning the content of such prayer and invocations. They have increasingly been made generic. This is usually because public officials, misguided lawyers, and citizens, held a mistaken idea that "the law" required such a practice. In fact, I know that many public officials are mistakenly of the opinion that only non-sectarian prayers are allowed.

That is what is important about the Greece opinion from the Supreme Court.

In the Town of Greece New York, though visitors of various religious traditions were invited to lead the opening prayer before the meetings, the content of the prayers was not scrutinized. If the people leading them were Christians, than the ending of the prayer, with the Christian practice of praying in the name of Jesus, was regularly employed.

That led to the lawsuit - which wound its way through the Court system and ended up at the United States Supreme Court. The Plaintiffs objected to the use of "In Jesus Name" and claimed that specifically Christian prayers somehow violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The Court made clear that not only is prayer before legislative meetings constitutional, but prayer "in Jesus name" is also constitutional.

The Opinion states: "An insistence on nonsectarian or ecumenical prayer as a single, fixed standard is not consistent with the tradition of legislative prayer outlined in the Court's cases. The Court found the prayers in Marsh consistent with the First Amendment not because they espoused only a generic theism but because our history and tradition have shown that prayer in this limited context could "coexis[t] with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."

The Court took notice that " (The) Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes."

The Supreme Court rejected the contemporary misguided notion that has often led to the changing of the content of prayers to somehow accommodate the perceived obligation to respect the pluralistic nature of the population.

The majority opinion noted that the prayers in Greece, New York, reflected the population in Greece, New York. The majority opined - The decidedly Christian nature of these prayers must not be dismissed as the relic of a time when our Nation was less pluralistic than it is today.

The Court rightly rejected the idea that the content of prayers before such sessions should somehow be censored to ensure they were "non-sectarian". In fact, the Court noted that such a mistaken approach would compel courts "to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech" and  "involve the government in religious matters to a far greater degree" than the Constitution ever intended.

Sadly, that is precisely what poor establishment clause jurisprudence has brought about over the last few decades. In 1992 following the incomprehensible Supreme Court opinion in Lee v Weisman, while still serving as the Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm, I wrote a law review article entitled "In the Wake of Weisman: The Lemon Test is Still a lemon but the Psycho-coercion Test is more bitter Still".

In that article, after tracing the history of the interpretation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution and the developments of the last few decades, I predicted the insanity that would follow from the efforts of the Supreme Court to apply the so called "Lemon Rule" (named after the Courts 1971 opinion in Lemon v Kurtzman) and it's ever expanding interpretations and permutations.

We have experienced a judicial ping pong game of incomprehensible opinions requiring a showing that religious symbols have a secular purpose - as though religion and the common good are mutually exclusive!  A part of this mistaken notion that secular purpose means secularism has been to eviscerate ceremonial prayer of its true religious identity.

The effort to scrub the public square of religious expression and symbols is a threat to religious freedom, runs contrary to our founding documents, and is unfaithful to our history as a free people. It also represents an incorrect application of the Establishment Clause, found in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is best understood as an anti-establishment clause. It was intended to prohibit the "establishment" of one particular religion - in the sense of a Federal or State sponsored Church which mandated adherence from unwilling citizens. The American founders fled coercive approaches to religion which compelled adherence to a particular sect. Yet, they were not anti-religious.

They were MOST assuredly NOT against religious symbols or religious expression, including prayer before legislative sessions. Our history is filled with them. Or, more accurately, it once was. Religious symbols are no longer seen as a wonderful sign of the history of the West and the American founding by some. Rather they are seen as a threat to the increasingly hostile secularist order. When they are allowed they must be demonstrated to have been eviscerated of any religious meaning and somehow thereby rendered "secular" and acceptable.

That is why the impact of this opinion has yet be written in our history. We must act courageously and creatively in response. Among the most creative responses I have seen recommended since the decision was handed down was the encouragement contained in this press release from my friend, E.W. Jackson of Virginia.

E.W. Jackson is a Marine Corps Veteran and graduate of Harvard Law school. He was the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia in 2013 and currently serves as President of STAND and Bishop of Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, VA.His dedication to life, family and religious freedom have been inspiring. Readers of Catholic Online are familiar with his recent run for Lieutenant Governor of my home State of Virginia through my writing.

***** 

E.W. JACKSON CALLS ON CITIES AND COUNTIES TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS ON PRAYER, INCLUDING PRAYER IN THE NAME OF JESUS

For Immediate Release

May 6, 2014
Contact: Daniel Bradshaw
Phone: 434-603-1216
Email: Daniel@standamerica.us

Norfolk, VA - E.W. Jackson, 2013 Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia, is urging cities and counties in Virginia and around the country, to lift restrictions on prayer before public meetings.  This week's Supreme Court Decision in the case of Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway held that prayer before Council meetings and other public bodies is Constitutional.  Justice Kennedy wrote:
 
"From the earliest days of the Nation...invocations have been addressed to assemblies...Even those who disagree as to religious doctrine may find common ground in the desire to show respect for the divine in all aspects of their lives and being...The prayers delivered in the town of Greece do not fall outside the tradition this Court has recognized. A number of the prayers did invoke the name of Jesus, the Heavenly Father, or the Holy Spirit, but they also invoked universal themes,...by...calling for a "spirit of cooperation" among town leaders...That nearly all of the congregations in town turned out to be Christian does not reflect...bias on the part of town... [T]he Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing."
 
According to Jackson, this decision strikes a major blow for religious liberty.  "Pastors have been told not to pray in the name of Jesus, and sometimes prayer has been outlawed altogether before public meetings for fear that someone will be offended.  The Court has now confirmed what we already know.  Prayer is part of the long tradition of our country , and Christians should be allowed to express themselves authentically, which includes praying in the name of Jesus."

Jackson, also a Bishop and Pastor, is encouraging ministers to reject requests by public officials not to pray in the name of Jesus.  "For a government official to require this of a minister," says the Bishop, "is not only morally offensive, but the Supreme Court has declared that it is also unconstitutional." 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Good Samaritan who fed homeless for 10 years charged with unbelievable $2,000 fine Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Founder of the nonprofit mobile food truck Chow Train, Joan Cheever, was fined by the San Antonio, Texas police for about $2,000 due to the lack of permit for the trucks she is using to transport food. Cheever argues she has the right to do her charitable activity ... continue reading


Tragic final hours of Abraham Lincoln recounted on anniversary of his assassination Watch

Image of Abraham Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth's final words were reportedly

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Long troubled by depression, 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln awoke on the last day of his life, April 14, 1865 in an uncommonly good mood. Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd decided to attend the hit farce comedy "Our American Cousin," which was playing at ... continue reading


Courage in the Storm: Three Cheers for Wyoming Catholic College! Watch

Image of I do not personally know President Kevin Roberts of Wyoming Catholic. I have never even visited Wyoming Catholic College. However, the action of the President inspires me. The College is now on my radar screen, so to speak. I will be praying for them and paying close attention to their future. I ask my readers to do the same. - Deacon Keith Fournier

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential ... continue reading


Abercrombie and Fitch employee reveals racial discrimination and sexual harassment at work Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Over the past ten years, Abercrombie and Fitch has received a number of discrimination lawsuits; they even paid $40 million in settlement back in 2006. Just recently, an unnamed employee went out in the open and gave full information about the constant racial ... continue reading


Know someone in the military? They could be in danger from Islamic militants Watch

Image of The Islamic State is threatening U.S. service members and their families, prompting senior military officials to issue guidelines about social media activity, to protect service members.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Islamic State's threat of violence towards U.S. service members is being taken very seriously by U.S. military officials, who have issued a warning to troops that instructs them to hide all information about them or their families on public accessible sites, ... continue reading


'One nation under God' defense team claims victory after atheists back down Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Marking their fifth victory in a row, the conservative wing in defense of retaining the words "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is claiming victory on the newest court trial. This is due to the decision from the ... continue reading


Emotions spike over 'disrespectful' political cartoon depicting 2-year-old murder victim Watch

Image of Kaden Lum was brutally murdered at just 2-years-old.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An editorial cartoon published is viewed as "disrespectful" by the family of 2-year-old Kaden Lum, killed in the still unresolved shooting last March 28. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Kaden's family was left outraged with Kitsap Sun newspaper's political ... continue reading


New Islamic State video vows another 9/11 and to 'burn America' Watch

Image of Entitled

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The evil media machine of Islamic State remains ever ready. The Middle Eastern terror group latest video declares there is "no safety for any American on the globe" and claims that the U.S. will burn in another 9/11-style attack. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Divine Mercy Sunday, Doubting Thomas and the Jubilee Year of Mercy Watch

Image of Pope Francis: Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Thank God for 'Doubting Thomas'. His doubts healed the wounds of our own disbelief. They also open up, for all who look with the eyes of faith, a deeper understanding of the redemptive effect of the wounds of Jesus - and the role our own wounds can have in our ... continue reading


Repentance Walks but Mercy Runs: Pope of Mercy Invokes a Year of Mercy Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On Saturday 11 April, on the eve of what is celebrated as Mercy Sunday in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis will officially convoke an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He will release what is called a Bull of Indiction. Such a Papal Bull is a ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 6:1-7
1 About this time, when the number of disciples was ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
4 The word of Yahweh is straightforward, all he does ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
16 That evening the disciples went down to the shore ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 18th, 2015 Image

St. Apollonius the Apologist
April 18: Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter