Daily Dispatches
Pastor Michael Brewster of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., speaks with an activist protesting the National Day of Prayer
Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Krech/The Citizens’ Voice
Pastor Michael Brewster of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., speaks with an activist protesting the National Day of Prayer

More legal challenges on the way for public religion

Supreme Court

Since last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting prayer at public meetings, the losing side has come unhinged. A retired Montana Supreme Court justice, James Nelson, wrote a piece for the American Constitution Society blog, explaining his personal protest. He vows no longer to stand during opening prayers at any public meeting. He said he would not “be bullied, nor will I be shamed into standing.”

Other commentators have dismissed the five majority high court justices as having no understanding of how non-Christians might feel. And still others say the prayers elevate one religion over another, warning the ruling will trigger even more lawsuits. 

But more lawsuits would have been inevitable no matter how the case went. Already, two other cases give evidence to the ongoing liberal attack on traditionalism in the country. The United Church of Christ has sued North Carolina, arguing voters’ decision to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman infringes on its religious liberty. And the Supreme Court is considering a case involving public school graduation ceremonies held in churches. 

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The latter case is a project of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. It argues using churches for graduation ceremonies violates the establishment clause because students might think the government is endorsing that church’s particular faith. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago agreed, fearing Christian symbols and church activity during the graduation ceremony might be intimidating. 

The same week, the Supreme Court issued its pro-prayer decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, both sides on the graduation issue filed new briefs, each arguing Greece supported their view. Greece was partially decided on the basis of adults’ being mature enough not to feel intimidated when they hear something with which they disagree. Extending that reasoning, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State claims school graduations involve minors, who might not have that same maturity. 

On the other side, the school district argues that Greece’s reasoning of no actual coercion of non-Christians applies. The Court likely will decide soon whether to take up the case in its next term.

Listen to more legal commentary from Mary Reichard on The World and Everything in It:

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