Jewish World Review May 9, 2014 / 9 Iyar, 5774
Supreme Court rules on public prayer --- but should it?
By Jonah Goldberg
The notion that something can simultaneously be wrong and constitutional really seems to bother a lot of people. Consider the
In Greece v. Galloway the court ruled, 5-4, that the little town of
As a constitutional matter, the majority's decision seems like a no-brainer to me. The authors of the Constitution permitted -- and required! -- prayer at similar civic gatherings when they were writing the document and for years afterward, when many served as congressmen, senators, judges and presidents.
Now, as I am someone who thinks the Constitution is not a "living" document (i.e. changing with the whims of whatever elite currently controls the judiciary) but an enduring one (its meaning is largely fixed until it is duly amended), that pretty much settles the debate for me. If you want to ban public displays of religiosity, even by public servants, you should amend the Constitution, not appoint more liberal justices who will simply impose their preferences on it.
But don't tell that to members of the Cult of the Living Constitution, who believe that if something is wrong it has to be unconstitutional. For instance, The
The problem is that the
Now here's the hitch. Dionne and others have a point. Local governments and civic organizations generally shouldn't exclude people of different faiths. But whining to
Starting in 1999,
For a long time no one complained. Then, in 2008, with the backing of an activist group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a Jewish woman and an atheist woman launched a lawsuit. When the complaints went public, practices changed. A Jewish layman asked to offer a prayer and was permitted to do so twice.
I believe that tolerance is a two-way street. Majority faiths need to make room for minorities and minorities need to show tolerance for majorities. But a climate of tolerance should be created by those who live in it, not imposed by a handful of lawyers in
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