Religious Privilege

Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court in Town of Greece was predictable, given this particular Court’s history. That doesn’t make it any less unfortunate. The Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the town’s practice of opening town council meetings with a (very Christian) prayer.

It is ironic that all five Justices in the majority are Catholic; it wasn’t all that long ago (at least in legal time) that Catholic children attending the country’s public schools were required to participate in decidedly Protestant bible readings. The Protestant majority saw no reason to accommodate Catholics (or Jews or Freethinkers or anyone else), and the Catholics found that exercise of majoritarian privilege so offensive to their beliefs that large numbers of them left the public system. That was the genesis of the parochial schools with which we are familiar.

How soon they forget….

Don Knebel has an excellent post about Town of Greece over at the Center for Civic Literacy’s website. As he notes,

Under the Court’s decision, that practice [inviting only Christian pastors to deliver the prayer] can continue so long as there are no non-Christian congregations in the town.  And, if say a Hindu temple comes to Greece, the town will still have no obligation to include prayers acceptable to Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and all the other traditions that its residents may follow.  There is something unsettling about that.  Meetings of the town council should not be places for the dominant religion to trumpet that dominance.  As Justice Kagan noted:  “[T]he [challenged] prayers betray no understanding that the American community is today, as it long has been, a rich mosaic of religious faiths.”

Does this decision threaten religious liberty? Not much. It’s just another “f**k you, you don’t count” to people who don’t genuflect to the gods of the majority. Just another reminder that the pious hypocrites demanding that government privilege their beliefs–by allowing them to deny contraception coverage to their employees, for example–are totally unwilling to respect the equally sincere beliefs of others.


  1. It would be difficult to top Knebel’s commentary. Why is it so damned important to pray at a meeting attended by local officials? Or any elected officials? Their reliance on prayer as a solution to our problems reflects the limited capabilities of most elected officials to deal with any of the problems confronting their community.

  2. If only blessing very Christian prayers was the worst decision of this Court. Which will be W’s worst legacy:
    (1) the Roberts Court; or
    (2) the Iraq War?

  3. It’s more about marking territory than piety. Maybe they could pee on something for good measure.

  4. I haven’t read the dissents but hope someone referenced your reminders of how Catholics objected to their children being subjected to protestant prayers. These things have a way of coming back to haunt.

  5. Ho hum; is anyone really surprised at this decision? If so, what planet have they been living on the past few years? The Christians are devouring the lions these days and this won’t change till we exchange the sitting politians for thinking Americans. I voted this morning – DID YOU!

Comments are closed.