Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Freedom of Religion a Myth?


Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Tuesday from a Wiccan priestess angry that local leaders would not let her open their sessions with a prayer.

Instead, clergy from more traditional religions were invited to pray at governmental meetings in Chesterfield County, Va., a suburb of Richmond.

Simpson sued and initially won before a federal judge who said the county's policy was unconstitutional because it stated a preference for a set of religious beliefs.

Simpson lost at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the county had changed its policy and directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus.

Lawyers for Cynthia Simpson had told justices in a filing that most of the invocations are led by Christians. Simpson said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe."

The county (GOI: Government) "issues invitations to deliver prayers to all Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in the country. It refuses to issue invitations to Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, or members of any other religion," justices were told in her appeal by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Rebecca Glenberg.

GOI: I don't get this decision on several points. First, This Simpson lady said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe." She was clearly in keeping with the counties policy that "directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus."

Second, It seems obvious to me that the county should either allow a different religions to pray now and then or not offer a prayer at all but then again maybe that makes too much sense. I just happen to be a Buddhist and I guess my religion is not a "traditional religion" despite the tradition of Buddhism being older then Christianity.

(scratches head).

---End of Transmission---


Zen Unbound said...

James, I agree with your suggestion of no prayer at all. The Establishment Clause should *separate* church [ie, religion] and state, not introduce pluralism with its Gordion knot of problems.

Following is the First Amendment. The part in caps is the Establishment Clause, the lowercase part is the Free Exercise Clause. They can sometimes be at odds with each other:


crimnos said...

I'm a Buddhist too, and I'm confused by this ruling. I think it could be overturned at a higher level, but I just don't understand the reasoning.

Hey, is this what they call "legislating from the bench"? Damn activist judges! :D

james said...


Yeah, I think that is the best solution to all of the various religions represented in today's modern America.


Ahh a fellow Buddhist!! Yep, sounds like, "legislating from the bench" to me too. It cuts both ways.

Underground Logician said...

Thought I'd share a little mindless blather:

I think the "free exercise" clause poses problems that cause utopians to shudder, and secularist to lick their chops!

The free exercise clause seemed to be a great idea at the time for Protestants who wanted to be free from the Pope, or the Divine Right of Kings, as in Henry VIII, et al. Tolerance is a good thing! The problem pluralism faces is that to maintain some level of order, it has to offend more "fringe" religious expressions or face a chaotic atmosphere. Say in a court of law, when a witness who is a nature worshiper is sworn in, refuses to put his hand on any book or Bible, but a Bonzai tree. Do we give in? I know I'm being absurd, but there are circles suggesting we have the Koran handy, etc. for those who are offended by the Bible. Where do we draw the line?

What Zen and James suggests is logical; No prayer at all. A sure cure for the chaos is to have a completely secular state. However, this opens a Pandora's box. To safeguard secularism, you need to prevent the "creep" of religion into the state. This is what we have in China. We had this in the USSR, and the Eastern Block Countries, which have collapsed. Do we want to take on a system that has been historically proven to be an abysmal failure?

We have been making incremental shifts towards completely secular state, the type of which Marx would approve. Case in point, natural law, which has been the foundation of our legal system from the beginning, had always ruled in favor of the unborn in the issue of abortion prior to
Roe. The fetus is a human being. The problem natural law poses to secularists is that is presupposes a Creator that has instituted these laws that govern creation. Now, to see the effect of this secular shift, take our current batch of Democrats back into the 60's; would any of them support a then pro-life John Kennedy? How about then pro-life Senator Edward Kennedy, Scoop Jackson, Sargent Shriver, Hubert Humphrey, and pro-life Jesse Jackson? Folks, the entire Democratic party has shifted left towards a secular and materialistic view of humanity. And, the Repubs have shifted with them as well. The Republicans of today are the Democrats of yesterday.

Sadly, I see that western civilization IS being supplanted by the "Brave New World." Is this what you all want? If you do, you may unfortunately have your wish.

Any thoughts?

james said...


I agree with your point about not being able to cater to every religion in government.

This is exactly why I do not want ANY religion represented in govt buildings and procedures.

I would not make the jump though that you have made between a "secular" government with Communist USSR and China. In those countries religion was/is outlawed in all areas of life, not just government.

Here we have the freedom (and should ALWAYS have the freedom) to practice as we see fit. However, I do believe that a secular government IS the only way to balance out this issue in regards to a government.

As for a pro-life Kennedy? No, I would not have agreed with him (or the others) on that point and I am glad that they have changed their minds (Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, etc.)

One more thing, do not think that Republicans are the more "materialistic" of the two parties?? They are the party of corporate capitalists and extreme tax cuts after all.