SCOTUS: Christians can monopolize “short” prayers in city halls (Don’t worry non-Christians, it’s no big deal)

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.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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23 Responses to SCOTUS: Christians can monopolize “short” prayers in city halls (Don’t worry non-Christians, it’s no big deal)

  1. robinobishop says:

    Your appeal is Kennedy’s appeal. don’t throw your skirts over your heads and run to the hills over a prayer at a public meeting.

  2. Pingback: SCOTUS: Christians can monopolize "short" prayers in city halls (Don't worry non-Christians, it's no big deal) | Christians Anonymous

  3. Cerberus Black says:

    I do not agree, Mr Zehn.

    This may be of no importance to you, but I see our democracy slowly dwindling before our very eyes.

    If you’ll note from history, you’ll find that the few within any position of power oftentimes will think of themselves as gods and their egos always tend to get the better of them.

    And the way to start to slowly destroy a nation from within… Is by changing or riding themselves of a states own sovereignty through gutting or changing its constitution.

    And it would seem they are achieving this traitorous act. Because like children, give an inch and they’ll take a mile.

    They are a kangaroo court, and a fucking mockery of justice!

    Not living in a police state?! Really?!
    I beg to differ.
    As it stands at the moment, the president has the sole authority to have anyone targeted for termination, his military can raid and arrest anyone in your home, the corporate media are government puppets parroting whatever the government says, they’ve been collecting your phone records, collecting emails, collecting data which the (NSA) through the bush (Patriot Act) allows for the illegal search and seizures of anyone’s own home and effects without a court order, and yet, you see no problem here?

    I see a system that’s ripe for abuse of power.
    And it’s only a matter of time.

    • robinobishop says:

      Mr. Black,
      It would appear that your choice of media has been warping sensibilities while promoting paranoia simultaneously. An actual historical account is always helpful in setting the record straight when it comes to the use of prayer.

      This link provides the text and reaction to the prayer by John Adams who was present at the First Continental Congress in 1774 when people were in profound peril from a foreign power. It is a prayer characterized as having deep devotion to God. What particularly characterized the framers (as seen at this meeting) was their devotion to God and tolerance for each other’s political and religious differences.

      It is a breath of fresh air in reading it, stepping away from the polarity on the issue today.

      • Cerberus Black says:

        Umm… No thanks. I’ve no need for apologetics when getting information.
        Their corruption is absolute.

        “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
        (John Adams)

      • robinobishop says:

        Here is one of John Adams stubborn facts, courtesy of the Framers.

        First Prayer of the Continental Congress, 1774

        O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

        Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.


        Reverend Jacob Duché
        Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
        September 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m. [2]

      • Cerberus Black says:

        Talk about repetitions. Ha!

        Please read the treaty of tripoli. As that will clarify things for you.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t read any of the back and forth between you and robinobishop. I’ll only comment on your original reply to my post. My main argument is that the constitution is an imperfect document, interpreted by an imperfect court. Because of this, we will suffer some SCOTUS decisions. We will also welcome others. We suffer this one, yes, but that is no reason to condemn our judiciary. We will welcome the next. Most of us (non-religious people) welcomed the case that struck down DOMA and don’t ask don’t tell. If we begin to criticize the court too much over a small case, then we risk criticizing cases that favor our political positions. The next lawsuit might come when a town hall refuses to include Hindu prayers. The court might rule in a more secular way in that case. But until our rights are actually trampled upon, we don’t have much room to fuss. Public prayer is not a slippery slope towards a Christian state. Trust me, I don’t like saying this. But we have to be honest with ourselves.

      Also I agree that certain programs (especially revelations made my Mr. Snowden) have overstepped their authority, but I would advise against drawing too many conclusions about our government as of yet. Besides, my original statement was that we don’t live in a Christian (emphasis on Christian) police state.

      • Cerberus Black says:

        While I do agree with the approval of prayers to sky daddies for others to get through their day is perhaps beneficial. However, when we have a government that is propping churches with the peoples money, a so-called church in DC that has helped to shape laws in an African state that would condemned gays to death, or a life sentence would have a cause for concern, wouldn’t it?

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        What if we said (instead of ‘concern’) reason to be more active? Maybe that would’ve been a better way for me to word things. Yes I’m concerned, but it’s not worth making a big fuss over right now. But that’s my opinion, which is worth precisely what you just paid me for it.

      • Cerberus Black says:

        I’m sorry, Mr Zehn. But I’m very passionate about such matters.

        That very court has acted very inappropriate. They’ve made it easy for any business to take your property as they see fit, and without your consent. That is an indication of a court that is paid off and does the bidding of churches and the supper rich.

        As I’ve said, kangaroo court.

  4. Cerberus Black says:

    And whom is trying to reconfigure our science curriculum into church doctrine…? And whom is the most prevalent within our democracy?


    • robinobishop says:

      There has been nothing static about public school curriculum that should remain secular. We remain a religious people. We want our children to be taught the values of our fathers. We, as a people, want that preserved. You confuse evil for good and good for evil.

      • Cerberus Black says:

        The inert of this comment leaves one to only ponder the question:
        Do you forget to take your medications?

        One the one hand, you state that you need to preserve your Christian heritage. But, on the other hand, you say that we have lost our “rationality”?
        Can you please pick a side?

        Power always thinks… That it is doing god’s service when it is violating all his laws.
        (John Adams)

      • robinobishop says:

        Neither I nor the Supremes make any case constitutionally for a state religion of Christianity. The findings in the case, should you read it, are in favor of the worship of God as being foundational.

        “Black, pick yourself up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Winston Churchill

      • Cerberus Black says:

        Oh, I see. You’re in reference to yourself when quoting, Churchhill.

    • robinobishop says:

      If you have a quarrel, it isn’t with Christians. It seems from your comment that you desire to establish a new definition for democracy: Minority rules. In two sentences you have created a completely irrational thought. If the problem is that because Christians are in the majority they are guilty of reconfiguring the curriculum, Well, sir, they have always been in the majority; therefore, what is there to RECONFIGURE??????

      • robinobishop says:

        I had come to believe that atheists had the powerful gift of rationality. Now that we have lost that, what will become of our democracy?

      • Cerberus Black says:

        Minority rules? No. Just to preserve the constitution. But one can see that that document has no cause for concern with you.

        Article 1
        Adopted 1791; freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

        “Democracy … While it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy.
        Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhaust, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
        (John Adams)

      • robinobishop says:

        Black, Turn up the signal; wipe out the noise! Do you suppose it all comes down to Article One? We don’t need appeals to the Supreme Court if it was as mindless as that..

      • Cerberus Black says:

        And what will become of our democracy?


  5. robinobishop says:

    Black repeats himself about his atheist theocracy paranoia. (Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. ) Go ahead Black say it again.

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