"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
-- Thomas Jefferson
Jesus H. Christ!! I cannot believe that the Supreme Court is AGAIN about to debate the legitimacy of the spouting of religious BS in governmental settings. WHY have we not got this resolved by now? It's not as if several prominent Founders weren't atheists - do you think they would have agreed to a religious state?
Anyway, here were are in 2013 arguing what should have been decided long ago, except that the weight of tradition is very heavy, and religious people, in smug possession of the truth, won't quit. Inertia, ignorance and stubbornness -- bad combination.
It's bad enough that the Court itself begins sessions with "God save blah, blah, blah..." Or that in the past (Warren Burger), the Court has indeed upheld "opening invocations that call for God's blessing." Now it's down to town councils, which are aggressively Christian. A Jew and an atheist brought legal action, as well they should, but here the logic splits.
O'Connor's "endorsement" test
Sandra Day O'Connor had it right when she said that the government must not appear, to a reasonable observer, to be "endorsing a religion." The overtly Christian crap crosses that line. But later courts have allowed religious expression without requiring everyone to participate.
What kind of hair-splitting is that? Non-Christians are allowed to walk out? Or wear ear plugs?
The logic splits between the Jewish and the atheistic protestor. The former's goal is easy to achieve: allow other religions to take the platform. Slippery slope, though. Christian prayers are benign. What if a Muslim kid gets up and calls for jihad? What if one kid is a Haitian immigrant and believes in voodoo?
There are two linguistic nuances in O'Connor's formulation. One is that "endorse" is vague. There are invocations that call for God's blessing (supposedly not endorsing a religion), and ones that pray in the name of Jesus (endorsing a religion). I think O'Connor would be OK with the vanilla, God-centered prayer.
This brings us to the second nuance, the indefinite article "a." Prohibiting "endorsing a religion" does not go far enough. This is a secular country. Unbelievers are at least a sixth - more than Jews or Wicccans.
The state must not endorse religion, period.
So at the very least, a humanist meditation or even an articulate argument against God should be included at the beginning, along with the series of religious messages. You could do it in the same length as -- or shorter than -- those windy, boring "God grant us..." orations.
So one possibilitby is that the other side could be heard at the beginning of the town meeting (or of the Supreme Court, if they wanted to), to the outrage of many, no doubt. Anger is the only response that many ignorant religious people can muster to the honest questioning of their fantasies.
CFI and the other secular organizations should be all over this, if they aren't already. I know the Secular Coalition is active on it.
Sometimes even smart Americans are so ignorant I want to scream. The Supremes are like the Flatlanders who can't comprehend that there's a third dimension: no religion at all. Yes! The state could appear to be endorsing no religion at all! Just call the damned meeting to order.
Has that not occurred to anyone in the government? Or is religion so deeply entrenched that no politician would dare challenge it?