Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poor Oppressed Christians Just Don't Get It

Many news sites are up in arms over last week's Supreme Court ruling in the case of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway, which allowed the town to continue beginning legislative meetings with prayers performed by volunteer chaplains. What some of the "sky is falling" headlines fail to mention is that, as I mentioned in a recent discussion on Facebook, nothing about the law of the land has actually changed.

In the case of Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, the Supreme Court ruled "legislative prayer" a protected class of speech so long as it did not consist of "advancing or disparaging a particular religion." So such prayers have officially been allowed for more than thirty years. In fact, this latest ruling did add a further restriction not found in the one from 1983 - that the selection of prayers could not discriminate against minority faiths.

The town's practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the Establishment Clause when the practice is consistent with the tradition long followed by Congress and state legislatures, the town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer, and the prayer does not coerce participation with non-adherents.

Prior to 2007 the town of Greece allowed only Christian chaplains to deliver prayers, and if that were still the case the court likely would have ruled against them. However, in 2007 the town revised the practice and began including some members of minority religions, even though the majority were still Christian. That's nonetheless a hard sell to overturn in an establishment clause case, as most of the religious denominations in the town are Christian and members of minority religions who want to be included in the rotation can be.

In fact, in an ideal world, I think that this is a fine state of affairs so long as it indeed does not discriminate against minority religions or atheists. But the problem with that, as usual, is the Poor Oppressed Christians. Even before the ruling was released, they predictably objected because that further restriction meant that they might have to sit through prayers they don't believe in - you know, like members of minority religions and atheists have to do all the damn time. But the Poor Oppressed Christians are apparently special snowflakes who can't bear to endure any statement of religious belief not their own.

First up is Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is a known Dominionist most famous for installing a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Alabama courthouse and refusing to remove it even when the court ruled that he must do so. Two days before the ruling was released, he presented this gem of Poor Oppressed Christian nonsense:

Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

Actually, I know our history just fine. It sounds to me more like this Chief Justice needs to go back and learn our Constitution. The United States does not and cannot have a state religion. No amount of whining is going to change that, which is a good thing with the amount of whining these idiots actually do. And speaking of whining, next up is this guy. Al Bedrosian is a member of the Roanoake County Board of Supervisors, who likewise needs to study up on what the Constitution actually says.

“The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord,” Bedrosian wrote in 2007. “The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.” That’s what Bedrosian intends to do in his position as county supervisor, saying he would reject any request by any non-Christian adherent to deliver a religious or secular invocation. “I would say no,” Bedrosian said. “That does not infringe on their freedom of religion. The truth is you’re trying to infringe on my right, because I don’t believe that.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the plaintiffs in the recent Supreme Court case on public prayer, sent a letter to Roanoke County Attorney Paul Mahoney warning that the county risked a legal challenge if it implemented the policy proposed by Bedrosian. “Although upholding the challenged prayer policy, the Court also made clear that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits legislative bodies from excluding non-Christian prayer givers or otherwise discriminating in selection,” the group said.

The very idea that being in the presence of a prayer with which Bedrosian doesn't agree makes him a victim pretty much encapsulates the Poor Oppressed Christian ideology. It also clearly demonstrates that he's a special kind of stupid, or perhaps simply a religious fanatic without critical thinking skills. The entire point of rights (as opposed to privileges) is that they need to apply to everyone, period. It's not that our country never messes this up, but rather that the Poor Oppressed Christians want to drag us all backwards to keep their feelings from being hurt.

There really is only one other possible approach that could pass constitutional muster. If the Poor Oppressed Christians can't bear to hear a prayer given by a non-Christian, or an atheist invoking the principles of science and rationality, or a guy wearing a pasta strainer on his head calling on the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then they can eliminate prayers from their legislative meetings altogether. I personally think that's a shame - all things being equal I lean in the direction of placing all religions in the public square rather than none of them. But religious freedom isn't free, and the only possible constitutional approach is one or the other.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble


List with Laszlo said...

Did you see what happened when a Hindu opened the U.S. Senate?


Scott Stenwick said...

Yes, I did. I suppose because those Hindus were taking away the religious freedom of the Poor Oppressed Christians by insisting on continuing to exist. It amazes me sometimes how transparent the theocrats really are, though it probably shouldn't.