The Supreme Court just decided that Christian prayers are constitutionally permissible at local government gatherings and meetings. The case began when a Jew and an atheist in Greece, NY objected. There is an old axiom that hard cases make bad law, and in my opinion, this conflict did not prove the exception.
Contrary to what many are taught and falsely believe, the United States is not a Christian nation. It is a nation that is composed of a majority that profess to be Christian, but that is not the same thing. In fact, the Constitution is a secular document, makes no mention of Jesus or God, and provides that in taking an oath to tell the truth, one can affirm instead of swear.
For the religious I have never been able to understand why Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 aren’t taken seriously. In the relevant passage, He commands his followers to pray in private, to not be like the hypocrites who like to be seen by others in public. Jesus continues that the Father already knows what the invocators seek. In light of these words, I have to wonder why true believers have no problem ignoring them, and then do exactly what Jesus explicitly admonishes against.
No one can ever stop prayer. What is wrong with government entities calling for a moment of silence where all in attendance can choose to pray to their individual deities or contemplate something else? All too many Christians fail to understand what it is like to be marginalized by those in power. Our country, and all countries to greater and lesser degrees, have suffered various forms of religious discrimination. George H.W. Bush was quoted as saying that he didn’t think atheists could be considered citizens or patriots. I’m sure he’s not alone in that belief, so imagine someone coming before a local government body where all or most are Christians, and the supplicant asks for something like a zoning variance. S/he might wonder if it is possible to get a fair hearing, especially if the result later goes against him.
Why should anyone who pays taxes be forced to hear prayers at government functions that make them uncomfortable? One justice suggested that the person can walk out of the room. I’m sure that that won’t have any effect on the decision makers when he returns. The Bill of Rights was written to protect minorities, not majorities, contrary to a lot of misinformation about that. Many of the same people who believe that majorities should always prevail in America, to include constitutional rights, somehow fail to follow the same line of thinking when the Second Amendment is involved. Even if only a minority of Americans support gun rights, unless and until the Second Amendment is nullified by the people, it is still a right.
For those who are less than sympathetic to my arguments, who believe that majorities should hold sway, that there is no harm to listening to Christian prayers, I can only respond by warning of the curse of the Greek gods. Your wish may have come true because of a 5-4 decision. But if you wake up one morning in a Muslim (by example only) community that holds the majority in government and population, and their prayers are recited at every government gathering, it would be interesting to observe just how understanding and patient the minority would be. Perhaps then people would understand the importance of neutrality in religious affairs that governments at all levels should abide by, and that our Founding Fathers understood this despite all the lame arguments to the contrary.