Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled that short prayers lead by “chaplains of the month” (in other words, civilians) do not violate the separation of church and state, even if those prayers are strictly Christian. By the same vein, those prayers could also be strictly Islamic or Satanist, but that’s neither here nor there. The court’s decision was quite narrow, despite being called a decision that “strikes down the main reason the country was started.” Town halls or city councils still cannot endorse any specific religion, and they cannot explicitly write Christian prayers into the town meetings. Furthermore, the scope of this decision only applies to “short” prayers at the beginning of meetings, not long invocations, such as what we’d see at church. All that this decision means is that city councils and town halls are free to limit the short prayers in any way they see fit. They don’t have to allow short prayers from anyone and everyone.
While I do not agree with the ruling, this is one of those cases where I urge believers and non-believers alike to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we become angry over this decision, we are undermining the value of decisions that we enjoy. For example, this is relatively small compared to the repeal of DOMA.
The Supreme Court might not be a perfect system, but it’s the closest thing to perfection that we are going to get in the United States. We do not — none of us — agree with every single SCOTUS decision, but we — all of us — agree with some of them. We win some, we lose some. And neither winning nor losing should make us feel any more or less confident about our future. The slippery slope doesn’t exist until we find ourselves at the bottom of it. If we keep that in mind we are less likely to suffer from our losses and more likely to continue towards progress.
In other words, Christians who feel that the separation of church and state should be narrow should take their small victory and pat themselves on the back. Secularists who feel that equal representation should be practiced by local governments should not view this as a defeat. We are not living in a Christian police state. The next SCOTUS decision might land on our side.