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Author Topic: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer  (Read 1428 times)

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Offline fish

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Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« on: May 08, 2014, 12:47:31 PM »

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Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
Townhall.com ^ | May 8, 2014 | Cal Thmas


Ever since the Supreme Court ruled organized prayer and Bible study in public schools unconstitutional in the early 1960s, conservative Christians have been trying to re-enter the secular arena.

Take Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). The case, The New York Times wrote last year, "...challenged a 1968 Pennsylvania law that reimbursed religious schools for some expenses, including teachers' salaries and textbooks, so long as they related to instruction on secular subjects also taught in the public schools. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger ... said the law violated the First Amendment's prohibition of government establishment of religion. The ruling set out what came to be known as the Lemon test, which requires courts to consider whether the challenged government practice has a secular purpose, whether its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and whether it fosters excessive government entanglement with religion."

Monday's 5-4 ruling by the Court upholding prayer at government meetings may have stretched the Lemon test.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the prayers offered at a town council meeting in Greece, New York, are ceremonial and in keeping with the nation's traditions.

If prayer is largely "ceremonial" and "traditional" then it has lost all meaning. One might as well chant "2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate!"

Since 1999, the Greece town council has opened a majority of their meetings with Christian prayers. Two people recently complained about the sectarian nature of the prayers and filed a lawsuit. In response, the town council began inviting members of other faiths to pray. These included a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha'i congregation. Each faith has a different, even competing concept of God, which dilutes, at least for Christians, the purpose of praying before council meetings.

This case reinforces what the Founders had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. Having experienced the negative effects on religion from a state church in England, they sought to prevent government from meddling in religion in America. They struck a brilliant balance in the establishment and free exercise clauses. Government would not establish a state church and believers (and nonbelievers) could freely exercise their personal faith (or lack thereof).

When the state defines what constitutes legitimate religion, the free exercise of faith suffers and the government violates the establishment clause by defining legitimate religious practice. Just ask Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, who challenged the Affordable Care Act's stipulation that he offer emergency contraceptives as part of his employees' health benefits, abortion being contrary to his religious beliefs.

The Greece town council, apparently more interested in seeking approval from the state than from God, was willing to water down its prayers in order to maintain a "tradition" and win Supreme Court approval. Why not just pray "to whom it may concern"?

Justices tried to draw distinctions between the prayers said before opening sessions of Congress (OK because Congress gets to make its own rules and Members are free to join in, or not), and a Christian prayer uttered at a public high school graduation (ruled unconstitutional in 1992).

There is nothing to prevent and much to recommend elected officials praying in private before a meeting. If the intent is to seek God and His direction, that is the proper way to do it, according to no less an authority than Jesus of Nazareth, who said: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)

Jesus also rebuked the Pharisees when He said in verse 5 of the same chapter: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

While public prayers may be constitutionally acceptable, according to the 5-4 majority, there is a Higher Power that takes a dimmer view of them.

God save (and put some common sense into) this honorable court and town councils everywhere. Maybe we should pray, privately, toward that end.


Offline ebilly99

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2014, 01:01:05 PM »
Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
Townhall.com ^ | May 8, 2014 | Cal Thmas


Ever since the Supreme Court ruled organized prayer and Bible study in public schools unconstitutional in the early 1960s, conservative Christians have been trying to re-enter the secular arena.

Take Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). The case, The New York Times wrote last year, "...challenged a 1968 Pennsylvania law that reimbursed religious schools for some expenses, including teachers' salaries and textbooks, so long as they related to instruction on secular subjects also taught in the public schools. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger ... said the law violated the First Amendment's prohibition of government establishment of religion. The ruling set out what came to be known as the Lemon test, which requires courts to consider whether the challenged government practice has a secular purpose, whether its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion, and whether it fosters excessive government entanglement with religion."

Monday's 5-4 ruling by the Court upholding prayer at government meetings may have stretched the Lemon test.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the prayers offered at a town council meeting in Greece, New York, are ceremonial and in keeping with the nation's traditions.

If prayer is largely "ceremonial" and "traditional" then it has lost all meaning. One might as well chant "2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate!"

Since 1999, the Greece town council has opened a majority of their meetings with Christian prayers. Two people recently complained about the sectarian nature of the prayers and filed a lawsuit. In response, the town council began inviting members of other faiths to pray. These included a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha'i congregation. Each faith has a different, even competing concept of God, which dilutes, at least for Christians, the purpose of praying before council meetings.

This case reinforces what the Founders had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. Having experienced the negative effects on religion from a state church in England, they sought to prevent government from meddling in religion in America. They struck a brilliant balance in the establishment and free exercise clauses. Government would not establish a state church and believers (and nonbelievers) could freely exercise their personal faith (or lack thereof).

When the state defines what constitutes legitimate religion, the free exercise of faith suffers and the government violates the establishment clause by defining legitimate religious practice. Just ask Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, who challenged the Affordable Care Act's stipulation that he offer emergency contraceptives as part of his employees' health benefits, abortion being contrary to his religious beliefs.

The Greece town council, apparently more interested in seeking approval from the state than from God, was willing to water down its prayers in order to maintain a "tradition" and win Supreme Court approval. Why not just pray "to whom it may concern"?

Justices tried to draw distinctions between the prayers said before opening sessions of Congress (OK because Congress gets to make its own rules and Members are free to join in, or not), and a Christian prayer uttered at a public high school graduation (ruled unconstitutional in 1992).

There is nothing to prevent and much to recommend elected officials praying in private before a meeting. If the intent is to seek God and His direction, that is the proper way to do it, according to no less an authority than Jesus of Nazareth, who said: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)

Jesus also rebuked the Pharisees when He said in verse 5 of the same chapter: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

While public prayers may be constitutionally acceptable, according to the 5-4 majority, there is a Higher Power that takes a dimmer view of them.

God save (and put some common sense into) this honorable court and town councils everywhere. Maybe we should pray, privately, toward that end.
This is a interesting problem, as the internal pressures are difficult to isolate, but I will try. There is no doubt the separation of church and state was more to keep a single denomination from becoming all powerful in the nation, leading to a church of england or Roman orthodox church ruling the government in all but name. That said the separation has been quite helpful in maintaining balance in the secular world we live in.  I think that by allowing competing religions to compete in the free market. Is that not the best way to discover which god is the best, by having them all get a shot. If Jesus is the real way to god then he will shine through.
However the alternative is that we make a state religion but not only would that infringe on non christians, it also would hurt the freedoms of any christian who does not fall into the denominational beliefs. Imagine if Mitt Romney one and demanded you pray to god and his wives and brought back Polygamy. How about it the pentecostals got into power and demanded laying on hands and got rid of hospitals.   
Opening up the government to all religions may not sound like fun, but the alternative is to get rid of religion from the government all together. What do you think is a better option.

Not copied but my honest opinion.

Offline Hi

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2014, 06:23:24 PM »
getting rid of religion altogether.  Oh was that a rhetorical question.......?

Offline ebilly99

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2014, 06:28:54 PM »
getting rid of religion altogether.  Oh was that a rhetorical question.......?
No, I can see that. However as flawed humans who would decide what is and is not religion. I do support the removal of all religion from the government. However without being able to do that, why not just include them all.

Offline mark

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2014, 07:46:31 PM »
Even though our Founders wisely separated church and state in the Constitution, they did not separate God and state.  How could they?  The Declaration of Independence -- our founding document -- has four references to deity (Creator, nature’s God, Supreme Judge of the world, Divine Providence) which collectively make clear that our Founders saw God as the mighty author of our existence and the moral authority for our laws.

We have a secular government but a religious society.  Our government makes no religious test of civic officials but nevertheless requires moral behavior of them, using moral standards arising from religious traditions, especially the Ten Commandments of Judeo-Christianity which became the basis of English -- and hence American -- civil law. God and nation are one.

However, the Creator whom we recognize as the fountainhead of American government and society is not the exclusive property of any denomination.  The First Amendment prohibits any denomination from becoming the established, official religion of America; likewise it prohibits government from interfering with religious freedom and thereby allows We the People to have full public expression of religion according to one’s conscience.

Moreover, the First Amendment’s clause prohibiting an establishment of religion applied to the federal government, not the states.  It clearly says “Congress [not the states] shall make no law…”  It was publicly understood and acknowledged that the Constitution was intended to govern the federal government itself, not the people. The states were to be left alone to govern themselves as they saw fit in their pursuit of happiness.

Why didn't the First Amendment apply to the states?  Many of them already had establishments of religion.  At the time of the War for Independence, Massachusetts had a state church, Puritanism (or Calvinism). Connecticut’s official religion was Congregationalism. Rhode Island’s established church was Baptist. Pennsylvania’s was Quakerism. Maryland’s was Roman Catholicism. Virginia’s was the Anglican Church of England (which, after the war, became the Episcopal Church of America).




In fact, most of the thirteen states at one time had their own official churches/establishments of religion and five of the thirteen had their own at the time the First Amendment was ratified.  When James Madison was writing the Constitution, no mention of a guarantee of religious liberty was at first included because he feared that states such as Massachusetts and Virginia, with their strong state churches, would otherwise not accept the Constitution. However, he was persuaded to include the “no religious test” clause of Article VI. The Bill of Rights, Amendment I, which he later supported, provided the final corrective to the situation. The last of the state religions was disestablished in 1833. They were disestablished not by the Supreme Court but by the states’ own free will. The states voluntarily gave up their establishments of religion in the name of freedom of conscience.

As yet another proof that our Founders recognized God as the ultimate authority for our government and our society, consider the symbolism of the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States. It shows a 13-step pyramid representing the 13 original states, placed under what the designer described as “the Eye of Providence.” The Latin words Annuit Coeptis, meaning “He [God] has favored our undertakings,” float above the scene.  The seal was approved after six years of deliberation over various designs. Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson reported to the Congress that “The Eye over & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause.”

If the doctrine of separation of church and state had been intended by the Founders to keep God and religion out of government, does it seem reasonable that such direct references to deity would have been approved for the official signature of our nation?  Of course not!

Thomas Jefferson saw that clearly when he wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”  Likewise James Madison:  “The belief in God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources…”  Benjamin Franklin agreed:  “Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants.”

All were implicitly echoing the statement by William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, a century earlier:  “Unless we are governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants.”

The Declaration of Independence makes clear that God, not government, is the source of our freedom, our sovereignty, our equality, our rights, our justice and our human dignity.  They are preexisting in us, before there ever was any government.  So the Constitution does not grant any of that; it simply guarantees them for us and prevents government from interfering with it.

Therefore it is perfectly legal, constitutional and (in the view of our Founders and Framers) right for citizens to publicly express their religion via prayers and symbols such as the cross, menorah, and others. That includes the military; one of George Washington’s first acts when he became Commander of the Continental Army in 1775 was to create the Chaplain Corps for the benefit of his citizen-soldiers. At the same time, Congress itself often held church services in the Capitol and also has had a chaplain since 1774.

America has a secular federal government, but we are, and always have been, a religious society.  The assault on religion in general, and especially on Christianity, which is under way today from many quarters -- ranging from the ACLU, atheists, and liberals to the Obama administration’s hidden war on the military -- is ultimately intended to overthrow the religio-spiritual foundation of America.  If that happens, hell on earth will follow.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~Teilhard de Chardin

Offline fish

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Re: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 on Public Prayer
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2014, 08:16:11 PM »
this decision helps keep God in the government. not altogether bad!!