Something significant happened last week when the Supreme Court considered the issue of public prayer: a few of the Justices gave Americans an unusually candid peek behind the judicial curtain, revealing some provocative opinions on the role of faith and the purposes behind the First Amendment's religion clauses. The case was Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway and it centers on the practice of the Town to open its monthly board meetings with prayer. The Town has invited, without limitation, members of the public, including clergy, to deliver a short prayer at those meetings, but gave no restrictions on content or theme. The lower court ruled that, despite the fact that invocations were offered from persons of a variety of different faiths, the predominance of "sectarian Christian prayers" meant that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment had been offended. That decision was appealed, and in oral arguments before the Supreme Court last Wednesday, some of the Justices took the occasion to travel outside the facts of the case and to offer up a fascinating, and somewhat troubling, view of religious liberty in our nation.
Justice Stephen Breyer commented, "in my own opinion … a major purpose of the religion clauses is to allow people in this country of different religion[s], including those of no religion, to live harmoniously together." Later, as counsel for the parties continued their arguments, Justice Elena Kagan picked up on those comments and remarked, in a similar vein, "[p]art of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multi-religious society in a peaceful and harmonious way."
No one would deny the benefit of societal peace and harmony. The point, though, is whether those goals are what really energized and directed the Founders to recognize in our First Amendment the notion of religious freedom in the first place. To the contrary, my reading of the historical record tells me that religious freedom was recognized at our nation's founding as a good in itself. The consensus back then was that a belief in, and acknowledgement of, a sovereign God was an inherent liberty and privilege, indeed a spiritual duty, originating not from government, but from God. When Justices Breyer and Kagan (and I would surmise a few others on the Court as well) indicate that "peace and harmony" is the goal, then we can predict, ironically, that a very un-peaceful assault on faith will result. After all, under the view of Breyer, Kagan, et al., the concept of religious freedom would be ultimately reduced to a kind of de facto social bromide, permitted in practice only to the extent that it can keep the masses quiet. Such a utilitarian idea reduces faith in God to a mere social component for the courts to protect, or not, whichever way they wish, as long as the perceived goal of community harmony is being pursued. more >>
The dictionary defines the word "church" as "a building that is used for Christian religious services." If that is true, and most of us would agree with that definition, than how can atheists have a "church?"
It appears to be some kind of English import to America. Two British comedians have started something they call Sunday Assembly. The "Assembly" defines themselves as "a godless congregation that celebrate(s) life. Our motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfill their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one."
Not unlike most religious' organizations, the Sunday Assembly has a type of doctrinal statement. Its statement of non-faith goes like this. The Sunday Assembly: more >>
Last week the United States Senate passed a bill with a nice – albeit vague – ring to it: Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). But as evidenced by the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare), the titles of laws can be misleading. ENDA does not curb unfair discrimination in the workplace; rather, the legislation would effectuate it.
Carving out special and unwarranted protections for those that self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the act would prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from making employment or work environment decisions dealing with actual or perceived "sexual orientation" or "gender identity."
Like a rebel without a cause or a conscience, the far-reaching bill threatens to trample the rights of religious citizens and compel them into compliance despite very little proof of any, much less widespread, discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. A recent report reflects that the GLBT lobby has been highly effective in the private sector, with 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies voluntarily putting policies like this into place. more >>
The article's headline was absolutely shocking: "Maryland Middle School Requires Children To Cross Dress For 'LGBTQ Appreciation Day'," and not surprisingly, the article quickly went viral.
The good news is that it was a hoax.
The bad news is that it was so close to reality, most readers took it seriously, and it was only after I read a few paragraphs into the article that I realized it wasn't true. This is a case of fiction being frighteningly close to the truth. more >>
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week on a case that takes up the role of prayer in a public setting, specifically opening prayers at town meetings. Given the current makeup of the court, it is nearly impossible to predict the outcome.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the High Court will examine the issue of religious liberty, and when you think about it, that is a rather frightening idea. The case comes from the town of Greece, New York. Like many towns all across America, it was common practice to open the town meetings with prayer.
The policy that allowed for prayer was completely inclusive, allowing representatives from any and all faiths. But not surprisingly, Christian prayers were the most popular, as evidenced by the fact that out of 127 invocations, only four were offered by non-Christian groups. more >>
Josh Barry, of Camp Hill, Penn., wants to know why the president of the local teacher's union thinks he's a neo-Nazi after he complained about a classroom assignment that he believed to be biased.
"I'm Jewish and my wife is half-black, half-white," Barry told me in a telephone interview. "I am the furthest thing from a neo-Nazi."
Last week, his daughter's eighth grade American History class at East Pennsboro Middle School was asked to analyze a New York Times story about the recent government shutdown. more >>