An Unholy Mess: Supreme Court Votes 5-4 In Favor of Christian Prayers At Local Council Meetings

supreme courtGreecelogoIn a blow to secularists and civil libertarians, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in Greece v. Galloway to allow Christian prayers at a local council. The Court again left little clarity on the standard for future cases in what proved a highly fractured decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy tipped the balance in favor of the Town of Greece with Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas. However, his opinion was left in pieces by a series of concurring opinions. Scalia and Thomas specifically bolted over Part II-B of Kennedy’s opinion (except as to Part II–B, concluding that the town’s prayer practice does not violate the Establishment Clause.) Alito wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Scalia. Justice Thomas also wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice Scalia in part. Even the dissenting justices divided with a Breyer opinion for himself and a dissent by Kagan that was joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. In other words, an unholy mess.

The record in the case was viewed by many as highly suspicious in how the council almost exclusively used Christian ministers while professing to be open to any faith, including atheists. The town followed an informal method for selecting prayer givers under which a town employee would call the congregations listed in local directory. That itself allowed for an obvious bias but also the town only had Christian ministers. Even Kennedy admitted that “from 1999 to 2007, all of the participating ministers were too.”

The prayers often referenced Jesus or Biblical passages:

“Lord we ask you to send your spirit of upon all of us gathered here this evening to do your work for the benefit of all in our community. We ask you to bless our elected and appointed officials so they may deliberate with wisdom and act with courage. Bless the members of our community who come here to speak before the board so they may state their cause with honesty and humility. . . . Lord we ask you to bless us all, that everything we do here tonight will move you to welcome us one day into your kingdom as good and faithful servants. We ask this in the name of our brother Jesus. Amen.” Id., at 45a.

“Lord, God of all creation, we give you thanks and praise for your presence and action in the world. We look with anticipation to the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. It is in the solemn events of next week that we find the very heart and center of our Christian faith. We acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength, vitality, and confidence from his resurrection at Easter. . . . We pray for peace in the world, an end to terrorism,violence, conflict, and war. We pray for stability, democracy, and good government in those countries in which our armed forces are now serving, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . Praise and glory be yours, O Lord, now and forever more. Amen.”

Kennedy emphasized that the Court had long recognized a historical practice of prayers as not violating the establishment clause:

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.” 463 U. S., at 786.

Kennedy found no evidence of coercion in the use of the prayers by the Town of Greece:

Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs. The prayer in this case has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Kennedy made clear that secular values would not replace religious values in such public meetings as a constitutional mandate and refused to require “chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere . . . Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.”

This does not of course help those who do not believe in theism. I suppose, like Rome, when in Greece just learn to do as the Greeks do.

The case is Greece v. Galloway, 12-696. In my Supreme Court class, the students voted overwhelmingly to affirm by a vote of 11-1. The prediction was closer. Five of us thought that the Court would reverse the Second Circuit (which it did) and seven students thought the Court would affirm.

Here are the opinions.

970 thoughts on “An Unholy Mess: Supreme Court Votes 5-4 In Favor of Christian Prayers At Local Council Meetings”

  1. davidm,

    You’re still not answering the questions I posed to you. You’re also not being clear about what you actually do mean. If people fail to understand what you are trying to communicate, it could be because of your writing style. As Strunk and White would say–“…since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue.”



    Talk to davidm. He claims women have emasculated grown men in our society by usurping male roles.

  2. David: The Republican Party has made it one of its core tenets to make abortion illegal; Bush was prepared to sign legislation that would have made it illegal in all cases. The goal of outlawing abortion is one that resonates with a sizable percentage of Republican voters and many Republican controlled state legislatures have attempted to get around Roe v. Wade in various ways.

    You still have yet to show a single Democratically controlled state that has passed a bill that would interfere with a woman’s right to choose. And you won’t.

    So, let me ask where would you draw the line?

  3. Schulte: Court rulings over the financial obligations of sperm donors has nothing to do with the issue of abortion and a man’s interest in forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term. Conflating the two not only do it demonstrate a lack of legal understanding, it fails logical tests.

    1. RTC – I think that if a man has a financial interest in the outcome of his sperm, he should have a say in its coming to term. Isn’t sexual equality what progressives are all about?

  4. Face to face interviews are the only way to conduct a legit investigation, survey, etc. 80% of all communication is nonverbal.

    1. Nick – I posted a paper that showed that off the people on a phone survey who said they had quit smoking, only 35% had actually quit. This was checked by the surveyors going to the homes and taking saliva tests.

  5. Actually David, I’ve been on many a jobsite where guys laughed or joked about beating women.

    “Whaddya call a woman with two black eyes?”

    “Hard of hearing. Hah, hah, hah, hahhh.”

    That’s the sort of societally permeating ignorance the women’s movement is trying to end. If i’m a sissy for agreeing, then that’s a skirt I’ll gladly wear.

    1. RTC – Guys say a lot of things to be funny that they do not do in real life. But for an eye opener, be the only guy working with a bunch of women when they start to forget you are not ‘one of the girls.’ I heard stuff that curled my toes. I heard jokes I cannot tell in any company. It certainly changed my view that women were delicate little flowers who wouldn’t tell dirty jokes.

  6. David: I’ve got to run out to a plant sale, but let me quickly say, again, that there is no contradiction in what I’m saying.

    I’ll be explicit. When the life and health of a mother is jeopardized by a pregnancy, she has the right to terminate that pregnancy. Right up until the moment she delivers, in my opinion. That would make her right to choose…what’s the word I’m looking for…help me out here…a woman’s right to choose in that situation would be…oh, yeah, SUPERIOR.

    As for the man’s limited rights, his position would depend upon the nature of the relationship. In my view, he should only be allowed an interest if he is or has been in a marital arrangement, or formal engagement. A sailor on shore leave who hooks up with a honey would have a negligible interest, as far as I’m concerned.

    My defintion of society encompasses people like you, who are obsessed with protectig the unborn, which includes people those who go around shooting abortion providers. Your rights never, in my view become superior to a woman’s right to choose.

    Science and technology have pushed back the time when a fetus becomes viable, and it will require a careful and judicious determination of when a fetus’ right to life rise to te level of a woman’s right to choose.

    The possibility of life should never be considered a competing interst. You would hold the possibility’s interest superior at the moment of insemination.

    as for your view of the Republican Party’s respect for a woman’s right to choose, show me one Democratically state legislature that has passed legislation curtailing, restricting, or forbidding a woman’s right to choose. The Republican Party has made it a party plank to restrict and forbid access to abortion. Period. Claiming that the republican Party is honoring a woman’s right to choose is like the Saudi’s claiming they respect a woman’s right to travel by denying them the right to drive. It’s specious, at best. Or the most civil way to describe it

    If you want your arguments to be taken seriously, you must stop claiming that pigs can fly.

    1. RTC wrote: “You would hold the possibility’s interest superior at the moment of insemination.”

      I do not believe that a person exists at the very moment of conception. The best I call it is a potential person or potential persons. I’ve stated this many times, but you choose to mischaracterize my views.

      I am not against stem cell research either. I see the unborn as developing flesh. I don’t even recognize the full person until well past their adolescent years. That, however, does not address the unborn’s right to life, which grows stronger as it grows, not only within the womb, but after birth as well. A prepubescent child does not have the same rights as a 21 year old adult.

      RTC wrote: “The Republican Party has made it a party plank to restrict and forbid access to abortion. Period. Claiming that the republican Party is honoring a woman’s right to choose is like the Saudi’s claiming they respect a woman’s right to travel by denying them the right to drive. It’s specious, at best.”

      Another mischaracterization that is not true. For example, most Republicans believe that women should have access to the abortion option in cases of pregnancy by rape and incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. As I stated previously, this was President Bush’s position. Some Republicans criticize them for it, but the majority of Republicans agree with some access to abortion. You used your acceptance of this position as showing how you believe the woman’s rights are superior, but for some reason, you do not give the Republicans like President Bush the same credit when they have the same position.

  7. davidm,

    Let me get this right…you don’t think it’s realistic that some men choose to do their own laundry and to cook? My husband doesn’t cook so I will love him. He cooks because he enjoys cooking–just as his father did. Are you suggesting that men who cook have been feminized and are frustrated? Does that mean that the great male chefs of the world have been sissified by overly aggressive females? Are they frustrated men because they spend so much of their time in the kitchen…like so many women do? Women have a great desire to be respected–just like you men. BTW, how does a little ole just-lookin’-for-love lady usurp the role of a big strong natural hunter?

    1. No, Elaine, as usual, you are not following my argument at all. I cook too. In fact, I worked part of my way through college as a cook in several restaurants.

  8. Lets back up for a moment. Going back to the White Papers I linked to, which were published by the CDC. Are you suggesting the findings that men are more likely to be the instigators of intimate partner violence than women is untrue? Brushing all the dross of nitpicking on the way data were gathered, IS THE STUDY 180º WRONG???? Is the converse true; women are more likely to beat up and kill men?


    1. Chuck, no, I do not think the study is not 180 degrees wrong. My concern is about the degree of differences in injuries from assault that you were touting. I think a woman is more likely to say she was injured while a man will ignore injuries and basically respond that he was not injured. Nevertheless, because men are physically stronger, it is entirely likely that women are more serious injured in altercations. I do know of couples, however, where the man gets arrested for domestic abuse but the man was more physically hurt than the woman because he would never hit his wife. Yet if the arrest reports are believed, and a phone interview was done, the data would indicate that the woman received physical injury while the man did not.

      My expectation without any formal study is that men are more aggressive, and as feminism takes hold, men become more likely to hit women in that men begin to treat women the same way that they treat a men. This is the result of the ‘equality’ argument of feminists and Democrats. In the past, a man was taught that it would be immoral to punch a woman in the nose, but the same rules did not apply to women. A man would consider another man who punched a woman as a despicable low life, among the most unworthy of men. Men were even taught not to verbally argue with women, not because they were not intelligent, as the feminists falsely assert, but out of special respect and honor toward women being much finer. Men treated women like precious china to be cared for with extra care rather than as everyday dishes that did not require such extra care.

    2. Chuck – I am going to suggest that since the study was done by phone with no home visits that the study was invalid.

  9. davidm,

    OY! Here we go again with your complaint that women have feminized men. What kind of man can be feminized by a woman? Are you one of those poor feminized men?

    I left a comment for you much earlier on this thread–but got no response. If I missed your response on this long thread, please point it out to me.

    I have often stated my opinion on various and sundry topics. I also provide links to articles that contain information on different subjects. I do that because there are people/ideologues who post talking points and misinformation and opinions that they expect others to accept as the truth. Another thing: When I became a guest blogger–back in 2010–I had to temper my responses to people who made outrageous claims…who posted misinformation…who made sexist, racist, bigoted, homophobic comments.

    1. Your previous comment contained mostly opinion based upon the assumption that men and women are identical in terms of their psychology and desires in life. You gave an anecdote about how happy you become when your husband does the laundry and cooks. That makes it difficult to address because I do not accept that kind of equality assumption as being based in reality.

      I perceive men to be natural hunters, naturally more aggressive than females, and have a difference in what they desire in a relationship with a woman.

      In a nutshell, a man has the primary desire for respect while a woman has the primary desire to be loved. When the woman usurps the kind of role in the relationship that would lead to respect, and when the man assumes the role of being loved and cherished above all others but a role that lacks the respect he craves, it leads to a dissatisfied life for him. Frustration and arguments ensue, often without a logical understanding of why.

      I am speaking in generalities obviously. There are always exceptions to such. For example, evidence for the greater aggressiveness of males is the greater number of males in prison for crimes, as well as the historical tendency for males to hold positions of power. While generally speaking this is true, there are some women who also commit crimes and go to prison for it, and some women who hold positions of power in society. Such anecdotal examples do not falsify the general principle.

    2. Elaine – actually it is the school system and in particular the elementary system that is demasculinizing little boys. They expect little boys to be little girls and when they are not little girls they are punished for it or drugged or both. What they really need are more men teaching in elementary school and more male principals. I never had a male teacher until 7th grade. And that is not to say that I had bad teachers. However, a male along the way would have helped.

      I keep asking my wife to let me cook but she will not let me. If I cook she will not get the foods she likes and she will not be able to keep me on the healthy diet she has me on. When I was in college I cooked for my family of seven every day and did not find it feminizing. Some of the best chefs are men.

  10. David observed there may be differences in the manner in which males and females respond. That may be correct. Analysis of variance is one of the most useful and powerful statistics used in analyzing response patterns that have variables which must be accounted for before the data can be interpreted with any degree of confidence.

    1. Chuck – telephone surveys are cheap but unreliable. Here is an article that deals with that. In this case they did the phone interview and then a home visit.
      Validity of Telephone Surveys in Assessing Cigarette Smoking in Young Adults
      AUTHOR(S)Luepker, Russell V.; Pallonen, Unto E.; Murray, David M.; Pirie, Phyllis L.
      PUB. DATEFebruary 1989
      SOURCEAmerican Journal of Public Health;Feb1989, Vol. 79 Issue 2, p202
      SOURCE TYPEAcademic Journal
      DOC. TYPEArticle
      ABSTRACTSelf-reports of cigarette smoking in a sample of young adults, aged 17 to 21 (n = 359) obtained by telephone were validated by home interview and saliva cotinine measurement. While most subjects were in agreement for their reported behaviors, the telephone methodology underestimated cigarette smoking rates by 3 to 4 per cent. Reported quitting by telephone was an unstable category with 35 per cent of quitters reporting smoking on home interview. Reliance on telephone methods alone may underestimate smoking behavior. Validation of surveys, preferably by biochemical methods, is recommended.

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