Greece, Greece, I Tell You!
It’s not every day that a law professor has his book quoted by the Supreme Court, and so the University of Baltimore‘s Michael I. Meyerson was understandably intrigued when his 2012 work about the Framers’ views on religion made it into Monday’s decision on public prayer.
But the plug from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, was somewhat bittersweet. Meyerson says the decision misread the point of his book and took the quote out of context in a way that allowed the justices to draw an entirely different conclusion about how the Founding Fathers approached religion in public.
— Professor says Supreme Court drew flawed conclusion from book: University of Baltimore expert says Framers deliberately avoided sectarian language, John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun, May 10
No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to the bond-vigilantes/austerity/confidence-fairy crowd, but instead to (yet again) the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision issued last week in Town of Greece v. Galloway–and to what will be the rallying cry of the pro-Christian-prayer-at-government-meetings crowd, going forward.
Before I swear off posting on AB about that Supreme Court opinion, I want to make one more point, this one about the perniciousness of the Court’s conservative majority’s pretense that in order to understand the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or the Reconstruction-era amendments, or anything else about the Constitution, you presume that the framers intended to freeze things the way they were before the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction-era amendments, were drafted and ratified.
Which raises this question: Why engage in a laborious process of gathering a large number of people to draft a Constitution and shortly afterward draft and ratify amendments, or fight a Civil War and, after you win, draft and ratify amendments reflecting the outcome of the war, if your purpose is to solidify the pre-Constitution, pre-Bill of Rights, pre-Civil War, pre-Reconstruction-era status quo?
The answer is that you don’t, and you don’t pretend that others did. Unless you’re a 1980s-era Conservative Legal Movement lawyer, judge or justice.*
But it also highlights what is becoming a hallmark of the Roberts Court’s conservative majority: misrepresentations of the very meaning of words, phrases, legal doctrines, and (now, apparently) academics’ writings.
I wrote here recently that we’re “witnessing here a concerted, unremitting restructuring of fundamental parts of American law under the guise of constitutional interpretation, employing medicine-man semantics gimmicks and other such tactics, including baldly false, disorienting declarations stating what others’ opinions are.”
The title of Meyereson’s book is Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America. As I said here yesterday, town governments are people, my friend.
I do think the Supreme Court has crossed a threshold now. This crowd observes no recognizable bounds of propriety in achieving the Conservative Movement’s policy goals via the Court’s transparent machinations of history, language, false analogy. Nothing–nothing–is sacred any longer. Except, of course, Christianity.
[Next up, later this week: Why I believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will announce her retirement at the end the Supreme Court term in late June, pending confirmation of her replacement. And the Un–Elena Kagan who I expect will replace her–and why it would be a very good development, for once.]
*This paragraph and the one above were edited for clarity and inclusion of an inadvertently-missing clause after posting, 5/14 at 6:28 p.m.
As a still practicing lawyer, it is astounding to me to see the level of intellectual dishonesty on this Court. I know the Court has always had its political side throughout history but this is just beyond the pale. Five of the sitting justices would not have passed Con Law when I went to school. It would be almost funny if it were not so scary.
i agree with you about the Supreme Court’s “reasoning.” And probably it is necessary that you point it out.
But it’s a shame it has to be about “public prayer,” which is an issue so trivial it is better ignored. But not ignored, it just makes it more likely you will drive “simple folk” into the arms of the court and the evil they represent.
It’s not a trivial issue to me because it’s not trivial to those who defend it, i.e., “nothing is but thinking makes it so – W. Shakespeare”. If it were trivial to its advocates it would be no big deal to omit it or pray silently in their heads. And if they’re willing to subvert the constitution to get it, this trivial thing, it says something about the kind of people they are and why they have to be resisted.
I think Bush v Gore was sort of a watershed moment for the Supremes. That was a terrible, unconstitutional decision–the constitution called for the House to decide the issue I believe which would have had the same result–but they got away with it and intellectual honesty and the constitution have been afterthoughts ever since. I am not a constitutional scholar, but were not the first 10 amendments a/k/a The Bill of Rights adopted with the constitution? So the first amendment would have been enacted in the context of our founding fathers wanting to avoid all the turmoil caused by religion in Europe which was sort of the genesis of at least several of the original colonies/states if I remember correctly and that allows government to impose religious beliefs on people attending governmental meetings why? I really fail to see how this is any different from the Taliban and Sharia law which I suspect the 5 members in the majority abhor. Of course the guy who wrote into my newspaper complaining about women showing “cleavage” and asking the authorities to do something about it, would probably not agree that he is in favor of the morality police in Saudi Arabia who will go after any woman not wearing a habib. And the world hates us for our “freedom”?
“Nothing–nothing–is sacred any longer. Except, of course, Christianity.”
Unless, you know, the Christians in question are practicing the wrong parts of the New Testament. Moneychanger-lashing, practicing medicine w/o a license, feeding people w/o a permit, not answering questions in court … you know, all that uncomfortable stuff.
But then, serious practitioners of all religions have generally had a tough time of it.
I don’t believe “establishment of Religion” is exactly the same thing as
having a “prayer” before a public meeting.
i happen to dislike public prayer myself, but somehow i think i can live through the pain of others pretending to be religious. the fact is that the perpetrators of public prayer are not religious, they are political, and they know exactly the political value of getting your goat.
what’s funny is that some of you react to any display of “christianity” like dracula being shown a cross.
and i am beginning to think that the “seriousness with which you regard the issue” is telling me what kind of people you are and why you have to be resisted.
the place to resist the hypocrites and hypochristians is not in the Supreme Court, which you despise, but just quietly going about being nice, polite, considerate people talking about issues that matter… to all of us.
As long as one is not FORCED to pray, no matter to whom or about what to pray for, then I have no problem with people praying in a public venue.
You are absolutely right and that is why it concerns me. All organized religion is political and that is what makes it so dangerous to let it creep into our government. I do not want the government doing things because “it is the Christian thing to do–it almost never is” any more than I want the government or law to do what “the Prophet Mohamed decreed”. I would prefer a government that was more rational and less politicized than it is but understand that in a democracy you have to put up with politics. I just think you have to keep it secular and that the Bill of Rights was essentially to protect the minority from the majority. At best I see the Supremes as letting the camel’s nose under the tent.
the supremes are PUSHING the camels nose under the tent because it serves them politically. they don’t give a damn about christianity. but they know that by provoking you to “fight” christianity they can win the votes they need for what they do care about (money and power).
you need to find a way… and beverly could have done it… to fight the “political christians” without alienating the “simple christians. they won’t make it easy for you, especially to the extent that you (beverly) really DO “hate christianity”… just like the Supremes.
and that is because, like the people who hate(d) jews in Europe because of atrocities they had been told about, you hate Christians because of atrocities you have been told about.
guess how politicians have managed people for the last xteen thousand years.
Coberly, I certainly do not hate Christians or even Catholics, although I disagree with them trying to impose their belief systems on society as a whole on things like abortion–which I do not much like either, but think should be private decision between the woman, her doctor and her God, if any–gay marriage, creationism, or public funding of religious schools. I suppose I might feel differently if Catholics suddenly embraced some of Pope Francis’ comments on income inequality, but I am not holding my breath. And I certainly do not equate my being critical of Christian or any prayer at governmental sponsored events, with the demonizing of Jewish people in Germany after the first world war. Now I think you could make a case that there is a segment of the population in this country who is demonizing Moslems which goes back to the Crusades, just as the Christians have demonized Jews going back to at least the Spanish Inquisition. What all of these persecutions have in common is government support for the majority faith ie the oppression of a minority by the majority which I believe the First Amendment was intended to limit, at least in matters of religion, speech and assembly.