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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2013/ 12 Kislev, 5774

Church, state and the Supremes

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's not just the American economy that has a deficit problem but American law. Call it a deficit of common sense.

Here's the latest, irritating and all too common example of this recurrent problem, even plague. According to an appellate court up in New York state, prayers offered by private citizens at the invitation of a town council in Greece, N.Y., represent an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Why, for Heaven's sake? According to that court's "reasoning," the municipal government violated the First Amendment, which both (a) guarantees freedom of religion and (b) forbids government to establish one. Which is quite a trick, but both principles can be respected, and have been over the years -- by exercising that most uncommon of qualities in the law, common sense.

The result has been a great success: America has nurtured one of the most religiously tolerant yet religiously fervent societies in the world. We've been able to achieve that feat because courts and legislatures have kept their hands off religion -- rather than decreeing just how much of it to allow, which is always a mistake.

Now the Supreme Court of the United States is being asked to police prayers offered at a public meeting in Greece, N.Y. (pop. 96,095). The court should do no such thing. But that is the course some of the Supreme Court's less thoughtful members suggested when this case came before them. Why doesn't this town council, one justice suggested, just limit those giving the opening prayer to some nice, inoffensive sentiments that all (or at least most) citizens could approve? Call it generic prayer.

The term for this approach is civil religion, which has its place on ceremonial occasions in multireligious societies. It is the course the greatest of multireligious empires -- Rome -- followed so long and so successfully. To quote Gibbon's history of that empire's decline and eventual fall: "The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord." It sounds familiar, at least to an American.

As useful and even satisfying as civil religion can be on ceremonial occasions -- think of the last community-wide Thanksgiving service you attended, or the ecumenical prayers delivered at a presidential inauguration -- the kind of civil religion on offer at such occasions should not be confused with the intimate, personal, deeply felt kind. The kind that an American government should never -- never! -- lay hands on. When it does so, government always leaves its fingerprints behind, not to mention simmering resentments. And deep divisions. Which is why the best guide American courts can follow when the subject before them is religion may be the simplest: Hands Off!

A noted political philosopher and Irish barkeep, Finley Peter Dunne's fictional Mister Dooley, put it this way: "Religion is a quare thing. Be itself it's all right. But sprinkle a little pollytiks into it and dinnymit is bran flour compared with it. Alone it prepares a man for a better life. Combined with pollytiks it hurries him to it."

In more elevated prose, an eloquent observer and analyst of Democracy in America back in the 1830s, a Frenchman named de Tocqueville, noted that both "the spirit of liberty" and the "spirit of religion" not only co-existed in this New World but thrived in conjunction with each other. Because each kept a respectful distance from the other. While in Europe, where church and state were joined, they became bitter antagonists -- and their mutual enmity a threat to the public peace. Which is why each should leave the other very much alone. It's also why the Supreme Court of the United States shouldn't be vetting the prayers offered by citizens at a town council meeting in upstate New York, and deciding which are constitutionally kosher and which aren't. Like some kind of secular sanhedrin. Talk about an unholy spectacle.

The innocent citizens offering those prayers aren't public officials setting down the law or speaking for the State. Indeed, they may be speaking to it as well as to their own G0D, and they have every right, even duty, to speak as their own conscience dictates.

If their prayer, their free exercise of religion, offends others, well, there's another part of the First Amendment that would seem to cover that eventuality, even probability in a free country. It's the part of the amendment that guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. Those who object to the contents of a prayer offered at a public meeting, or even object to a prayer's being offered at all, can express their objections in public, too. By making a statement of their own, or writing a letter to the editor. Rather than try to gag the rest of us. It's the American way.

Let everybody have their say -- and their own prayers. This is called tolerance, and it's the mark of a society that is both free and stable. Let freedom ring! No society ever prospered by suppressing either different opinions or different prayers. However tempted the Supreme Court of the United States may be to decide which prayers are acceptable and which aren't, it is a temptation no court -- or any other political body -- should yield to in a free society.



The questions this case raises should never have gotten to the Supreme Court of the United States or any other, they are so simple and fundamental. Which is why the most sensible observation from any member of the court when it heard this case came from Her Honor Elena Kagan, who noted during the hearing: "Part of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multireligious society in a peaceful and harmonious way. And every time the court gets involved in things like this, it seems to make the problem worse rather than better." Amen and Selah. Here's hoping her colleagues were listening. And will stay out of this briar patch.

Yes, the study of the law sharpens the mind -- but too often by narrowing it. And those learned in the law alone may not learn self-restraint. Or judicial restraint.

The separation of church and state in an ever-changing society can be a complicated matter. The wall between the two that Thomas Jefferson mentioned in his oft-quoted letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Conn., has shifted this way and that over the years. That wall of separation has followed a serpentine course, sometimes veering one way, sometimes the other. Maintaining it has not always been simple, but this case is. The essence of the high court's decision should be simple, too: Let folks pray. In their own way invoking their own God -- or none. To use less than stained-glass language, let 'em take their best shot. The rest of us can stand it. We're grown up, or should be. Maybe even grown up enough to know that the best way to foster tolerance in a free and religiously diverse country is to practice it.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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