In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that the practice of offering predominantly Christian prayers before the start of government meetings does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The press is describing the split on the bench as one between “conservatives” and “liberals.” But notably, it is also largely a split between Christians and Jews, with five of the six Christian justices joining the majority, and all three Jewish justices signing on to the dissent.
No doubt judicial philosophy had something to do with the split, but I’m not sure that the Christian members of the court fully appreciate the depth and scope of our nation’s inherent religious bigotry toward non-Christians. Or if they do, they just don’t give a shit.
“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian — constantly and exclusively so,” Kagan said. “The prayers betray no understanding that the American community is today, as it long has been, a rich mosaic of religious faiths.”
The legal tussle began in 2007, following eight years of nothing but Christian prayers in the town of nearly 100,000 people outside Rochester. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, a Jew and an atheist, took the board to federal court and won by contending that its prayers – often spiced with references to Jesus, Christ and the Holy Spirit — aligned the town with one religion.
Once the legal battle was joined, town officials canvassed widely for volunteer prayer-givers and added a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and a member of the Baha’i faith to the mix. Stephens, meanwhile, awoke one morning to find her mailbox on top of her car, and part of a fire hydrant turned up in her swimming pool.
And no. No kid has ever had the shit beaten out of him for refusing to participate in a Christian prayer.
Perhaps if our court’s papist majority had a firmer grasp on the history of religious intolerance in America, they’d have greater appreciation for the often uncomfortable experience of our nation’s religious minorities.