Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

5/8/2014 (2 years 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 (2 years 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." 

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for DECEMBER 2016
Universal:
End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.
Evangelization: Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.



Comments


More U.S.

Secret Service eyes Madonna after star threatens to blow up White House during Women's March on Washington Watch

Image of Madonna admits before a crowd of thousands that she has considered

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pop star Madonna was one of several celebrities attending the Women's March on Washington Saturday, January 21, just one day after Donald Trump was sworn into the Presidency. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Like many celebrities, Madonna spoke candidly without fear ... continue reading


Beheading videos and the ISIS flag - Masked man intimidates Trump supporters in Washington Watch

Image of Masked man revealed an ISIS flag and beheading video on his phone (InfoWars).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A group of President Donald Trump supporters were enjoying themselves in a sports bar in northwest Washington when a masked man approached the large glass window. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Outside the Proper 21 sports bar, the masked protester pulled a phone ... continue reading


'I could have been arrested...' - Nebraska law forcing nuns to remove habits in schools sparks controversy Watch

Image of Nuns are not allowed to wear habits in Nebraska schools.

By (CNA/EWTN News)

Sister Madeleine Miller's efforts to substitute teach in a Nebraska public school ran afoul of a century-old law that left her bewildered - and prompted the state legislature to take another look at the law's dark past. Lincoln, NE (CNA/EWTN News) - "I was just ... continue reading


Meth cook and devil worshiper attacks mother then leaves her for dead with demon king's name written on her chest Watch

Image of Chase Wall attacked his mother and left her for dead with a demon king's name scrawled across her chest.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Chase Wall, a 33-year-old occult-obsessed meth addict, was arrested after beating his mother, stealing her car and leaving her for dead with a demon's name inscribed on her bloody chest. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Wall's 66-year-old mother was discovered in a ... continue reading


Amazing discovery in Canada reveals one man's controversial claim was TRUE Watch

Image of Evidence of stone tools used on a horse's jaw means humans arrived in North America thousands of years earlier than previously believed.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Researchers at the Université of Montréal (UdeM) in Canada made an important discovery this year, changing a key element of North American history. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - New research suggests humans first traveled to North America 24,000 ... continue reading


When one Bible isn't enough, use two! Trump to take oath with TWO Holy Bibles Watch

Image of Donald Trump will be sworn into office using two Bibles.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Donald Trump will be sworn into office on January 19. At that time, he will have not one but two Bibles - one of which will be pulled from the Library of Congress collection to commemorate the special event. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Donald Trump will be ... continue reading


Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Pro-Life Christian Leader and Hero Watch

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Christian Leader

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On January 27, 2017, the annual March for Life will take place once again in Washington, DC. On January 16th we commemorate a great Christian and Human Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was assassinated in 1968 for defending the fundamental truth of ... continue reading


Pope Francis cited in one bishop's call for change - Will it help? Watch

Image of Pope Francis has been calling for help on behalf of immigrants for years.

By Kevin Jones (CNA/EWTN News)

The upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump has raised questions about the future of immigration reform, but the nation's Catholic bishops remain hopeful. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "We also find it important that we engage the present incoming ... continue reading


'The Greatest Show on Earth' to pack up for the last time after 146 years Watch

Image of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus will close after 146 years (Todd Hesler).

By Nikki Crawford (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus announced they would be closing up shop for the final time this May after 146 years of bringing magic to families across the country. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Everyone knows the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & ... continue reading


Christianity on the decline under Obama, pop media, and atheist persecution Watch

Image of A church is burned in full-scale effigy at the Burning Man festival, an expression of pop culture.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Atheism and agnosticism gained a boost during Obama's presidency as the number of people claiming no religious affiliation rose during his administration. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Pew Research Center has released a report which states, "When it comes ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 8:23--9:3
23 For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14
1 [Of David] Yahweh is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 4:12-23
12 Hearing that John had been arrested he withdrew to ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
10 Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 22nd, 2017 Image

St. Vincent Pallotti
January 22: St. Vincent Pallotti, Priest (Feast - January 22) ... Read More