|The Ten Commandments now on the Oklahoma|
Statehouse grounds has some spelling issues.
If you’re still shocked, ask yourself if there’s any difference between erecting the Ten Commandments and the statue of Satan. If your answer is that one is traditional and one not, know that the Constitution has no such escape clause: governments simply can’t favor one religion over another, not even old ones over new ones. What they can (and should) do is stay out of the religion business entirely. Take down the Ten Commandments and the Satanists would have to find another venue for their statue (say, for example, the Texas Statehouse lawn, which also has the Ten Commandments on display).
|Outside the U. S. Supreme Court|
But wait, didn’t the United States Supreme Court just allow Christian prayers at the start of town meetings? Yes, it did (shamefully), in a case called Town of Greece, New York. v. Galloway, handed down a week or so ago. The Court (five conservatives in favor, four liberals dissenting) held that such prayers are allowed as long as the town is willing to let others lead opening prayers if they wish, including (gasp!) atheists, but noted that the small town involved mostly has only Christians churches in the local community. The lawsuit was brought by a Jew and an atheist, who objected to being forced into the awkward position of enduring such prayers just as they were appearing before the town council hoping to persuade it to grant some petition or other they were urging. What should they do during such prayers? Bow their heads? Join in? Stand defiantly with heads erect (and how sympathetic would that make the town council to their subsequent pleas?). Here is a sample of an actual prayer at a Greece town meeting (taken from the Record of the case):
How would a Jew feel if forced to stand through such a prayer? How about an atheist? When I was heavily involved in gay rights in Columbus, Ohio, thirty years ago we had a Columbus City Council meeting in which the council was going to vote on whether to grant employment protection regardless of sexual orientation. The issue was very contentious and the council chambers (and the balcony) were packed to the rafters, with about 2/3 of those present being churchgoers trucked in by bus from a small nearby city, and the other 1/3 supporters of the ordinance. The chaplain began the meeting with a very long prayer that at one point said something like, “Preserve us, Our Lord God, from the godless hoards who would impose their evil ways on the good citizens of Columbus, and pervert our laws with sin.” When he was done, Craig Covey, the President of Stonewall Columbus muttered to me, “I want to do a rebuttal to the prayer.” One wonders whether the Supreme Court would have approved that sort of religious message at the start of a meeting addressing a thorny issue like this one.