America ka matlab kya? (Christians are #1)

We have always appreciated America as a secular paradise (even though Europe probably has more non-religious people) because of its firm division between Church and State, which in translation means (to us) that religion stays away from the public square but if it is allowed in then all religions (as well as non-religion) speak from the same level platform.

The U.S.
2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that the Greece town council
had gone too far, citing the “steady drumbeat” of Christian prayers.

Obviously this is a bit of an ideal scenario, there is a strong flavor of Christianity in most things that Americans enjoy and/or celebrate and that was just fine. As far as official America is concerned the fact that you may be a Hindu-American (a term that we are not personally fond of) is of no consequence or if it matters it does so in a good way (diversity!!!).

“one of the greatest moments in U.S. Senate history came when a
Christian group recently shouted for God to forgive us during the
opening prayer of a Hindu in the Senate.”

Now however we have the latest Supreme Court judgement and the likely (official) consequences of that ruling: Christianity (#1), Judaism (tolerated, Israel is where we will all go to die), Buddhism (we are aware of beaten-up Tibet but not much about the beatings in Burma and Sri Lanka), Hinduism (monkey gods), Wiccan (Harry Potter)…..

“Buddha didn’t create us. Muhammad didn’t create us. It’s the
God of the Holy Scripture,” he explained.

It is also interesting to note that (3) Jewish justices and (1) non-practicing Catholic justice voted against while the five Catholic justices voted for Christian prayers in the public square.
…………

The dissenters, led by Justice Elena Kagan, said the court had
crossed a line by approving a policy of “religious favoritism.”
She said
the majority might view the case differently if a “mostly Muslim town”
decided to open its meetings with Muslim prayers or a Jewish community
always invited a rabbi to open its official proceedings.

“When the
citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as
Americans, not as members of one faith or other,” she wrote. “They
should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along
religious lines.”

The case began when a town supervisor in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester,
decided to invite local clerics to open the town’s monthly meetings with
a prayer.  

Between 1999 and 2007, all of the participating ministers
were Christian.

Two residents who regularly attended the meetings, Susan Galloway,
who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, who is not religious, complained to
the supervisor and then filed suit. They contended the town’s policy of
sponsoring Christian prayers violated the 1st Amendment’s ban on an
“establishment of religion.”

No one disputed that the town could
open its meetings with a religious invocation. The Supreme Court in 1983
upheld legislative prayers in a Nebraska case. But it was unclear
whether such official prayers could invoke Jesus Christ.

The U.S.
2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that the Greece town council
had gone too far, citing the “steady drumbeat” of Christian prayers. That
decision relied heavily on the opinions of former Justice Sandra Day
O’Connor, who helped forge a previous majority around the idea that the
government may not endorse or favor any particular religion.

But
the current Supreme Court reversed the 2nd Circuit ruling and rejected
the lawsuit. Ceremonial prayers are constitutional, Kennedy said, so
long as they do not “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities,
threaten damnation or preach conversion.”

Thomas would have gone
further and said the 1st Amendment does not forbid states or cities from
establishing an official religion. Thomas says the 1st Amendment, when
it was adopted, limited only the federal government.

Though the case involved a town council, the ruling applies to all levels of government, including state and county boards.

………….
In a significant shift from earlier case law,
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that local government “cannot require
chaplains to redact the religious content from their message to make it
acceptable for the public sphere.” From now on, religious leaders can
offer full-throated, unapologetic prayers to the God of their choosing
in public meetings. 

And in language consistent with one of the most
speech-protective courts in modern history, Kennedy reminds religious
objectors that citizens who “feel excluded or disrespected” by such
religious invocations should simply ignore them. “Adults often encounter
speech they find disagreeable,” he wrote.

Whenever you hear cries that freedom has won, it’s worth
contemplating who, if anyone, has lost. And less than 24 hours after the
Court handed down its decision in Town of Greece, citizens of Roanoke, Virginia, have their answer.
Al Bedrosian, a member of the Roanoke County’s board of supervisors,
was sufficiently emboldened by the majority opinion to announce that he
would seek to impose a Christian-only prayer policy. 

“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be
heard,” said Bedrosian on Monday night, adding that he is concerned
about groups such as Wiccans and Satanists. “If we allow everything …
where do you draw the line?” he asked.

Kennedy’s plurality
opinion Monday opened the door to precisely this line of argument as a
result of all his airy talk of religious tradition and history.
“The
tradition reflected in Marsh permits chaplains to ask their own
God for blessings of peace, justice, and freedom that find appreciation
among people of all faiths,” writes Kennedy.  

“That a prayer is given in
the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing
reference to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that
tradition.”

He adds that “it is thus possible to discern in the prayers offered
to Congress a commonality of theme and tone.
While these prayers vary in
their degree of religiosity, they often seek peace for the Nation,
wisdom for its lawmakers, and justice for its people, values that count
as universal and that are embodied not only in religious traditions, but
in our founding documents and laws.”

In other words, because the prayers offered in the town of Greece abided
by this long “tradition,” they are, in Kennedy’s view, acceptable. Even
when explicitly Christian. Why? “A number of the prayers did invoke the
name of Jesus, the Heavenly Father, or the Holy Spirit, but they also
invoked universal themes,
as by celebrating the changing of the seasons
or calling for a ‘spirit of cooperation’ among town leaders.” 

What
Kennedy did here, in the event that you missed it, was to announce that
as a matter of constitutional law, some religious traditions that are
universal and longstanding are basically Christian and also that
Christian values are basically universal. 

But in so doing
he also drew a line between “traditional” and accepted religions, and
religions that are “other.” That seems to open the door for Bedrosian to
zone out the Muslims and the Jews and for Moore to zone out the
Buddhists and (surprise!) the Muslims.

…………
Link (1): http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-court-prayer-20140506-story.html
Link (2): http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2014/05/town_of_greece_v_galloway_roanoke_virginia_already_seeing_the_effects_of.html
……….
regards

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