The Supreme Court, Religion, and Protesting

Home of the Supremes

I am a proud member of American United for the Separation of Church and State. It is an organization that seeks to keep religion out of government. They are very busy. (Disclaimer: Just to be clear, I have no problem with people being religious. I think people should believe whatever they want. That is what I call freedom of religion and in this country you can even have faith in a flying spaghetti monster (pastafarianism). What I do have a problem with is people telling me that I have to agree and accept their religion as controlling.)

Ever since Mitch McConnell packed the Supreme Court with conservative justices, it has been a heyday for protesting. Many people don’t really follow the Supreme Court. Let me give you a primer. Six justices, five men and one woman who are devout conservative Catholics, now control the court The three liberal justices are women, religion unknown. The reason we know the religion of the six conservative justices is because their religion plays a very big part in their decision making when it comes to cultural issues. With their majority, these six conservatives feel quite free to foist their religion upon us. This trend has been going on for a while, but it is now gaining full steam. They are being primed to do so. Look at this article about how a conservative religious group has been grooming justices to be “bold.” And they are.

First up was a case from Maine regarding the use of tax payer dollars to fund religious education. Maine had a problem with the availability of schools for kids living in rural areas. It created a program to pay tuition for those kids to attend private schools if that was the only option for an education. A parent wanted to send her kid to a religious school, for religious instruction, even though other private schools were available. The State declined on the ground that the state law prohibited tax dollars being used to support a nonsecular school.

The Supreme Court said Maine’s policy was discriminatory to the religious school and a violation of freedom of religion. The State of Maine is now required to provide tuition to any parent who wants to send their kid to a religious school. This decisions follows an earlier one that held if a state provides subsidies for families to have their children attend private schools (think vouchers), they have to fund religious schools as well. So will it now follow that if a State funds any public education that it has to provide the same funding to religious schools? Do you agree that your tax payer dollars should be used to fund religious schools? I have no doubt that argument is coming.

Next was the case of the football coach who wanted to pray at the 50 yard line. If you think you know the facts, you do not. To hear them tell it, all he wanted to do was say a quiet prayer after a game. To the contrary, this coach was praying aloud and proud in the best Christian way possible, at the 50 yard line, and encouraging others to join, including the young boys on his team. When parents complained, the school told him to cut it out. But they did not fire him. They agreed he could pray silently after the game but not as a public display in relation to the game. When he persisted, the school put him on paid administrative leave. They felt, as a school employee, he was violating the separation of church and state. They did not want him coercing the players, some of whom were not Christians, into prayer. Instead of agreeing it was not proper to make these kids uncomfortable by requiring them to participate in a prayer, the coach sued claiming he was fired for wanting to take a moment to say a silent prayer.

Americans United put out a call to show up at the Supreme Court on argument day to show support for the school. I went very dutifully carrying my homemade sign.

There were also a few people there in support of the coach. I saw a pastor and a flock of kids on the steps praying to the Lord God to smite the heathens. One gentleman had a sign that said “let him pray.” He was trying very hard to interrupt the AU press conference. I figured he wanted a fight and I was ready to go at it with him. But AU is made up of some very polite people. They don’t like confrontation. They told me to leave him alone. Oh, I so did not want to leave him alone. But I had my say and went on home knowing full well what the court was going to do (and they did).

The court reasoning can be explained this way–if the coach had been saying something non-religious, like “Black Lives Matter,” no one would have said anything. That was his free speech right. But since he was saying something religious they shut him down and that was a violation of his right to free speech and religious discrimination. Never mind separation of Church and State. That is out the window.

That brings us to the day in May when the Supreme Court’s abortion opinion draft was leaked. Like every sane woman, I rushed to the Court to protest.

Protesting does not really do much good but it sure does feel good. And people are so very clever. Here is my home-made sign:

Lots of people took pictures of this at the protest.
You have to admit–this is funny.

So what does this ruling have to do with religion? Well, at least three justices are adamantly opposed to abortion of any kind on religious grounds–Alito, Thomas and Barrett (who was brought up in a the fundamental religious sect (cult)). Throughout the opinion, Alito uses anti-abortion terminology such as referring to a fetus as a person that requires protection. He calls the issue a moral one that involves the life of an unborn child.

Alito is a bitter man who watches way too much Fox News. He believes that the “progressives” are out to suppress “religious liberty.” Apparently the left is trying to force people of faith to conform to their secular amoral views and he is going to fight back. That is what the abortion ruling is about. Alito has argued for decades that Roe was wrong and had to be overturned. He finally got his chance and he took it.

There is so much going on in the opinion that it is overwhelming in its ignorance–lots of cherry picked facts and illogical reasoning. I never know if people get the gist of what the court does when it reasons, but in this case, the court concluded that if there was to be such a right or any right under the Constitution it either has to be express–of course abortion is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution–or it can be implied but only if it can be shown that the right is based on tradition and history. In other words, if abortion was okay when the Constitution was written (or at the latest when the 14th amendment was written in 1868), then it is okay now. If there is no tradition of allowing abortions then there could not have been any intention to protect it as a right.

As you can imagine, there is no clear answer here. Abortion has been with us as long as there have been women. But Alito went all the way back to medieval times to determine if abortion was accepted. He cited many men who had opined on it. Among others, a religious scholar who not only thought that abortion was a sin and had to be punished severely, he also believed that witches should be executed and that wives can never be raped by their husbands. Fun huh?

Despite the fact that pro-rights advocates brought forth a lot of evidence that abortion was long accepted if it occurred before what was called “quickening,” Alito declared that information irrelevant. Fancy words to say those facts are inconvenient and have to be ignored. Then he went on to show states had long defined abortion as a crime. That was not all states mind you, just some. Many states had no laws at all, i.e., they did not have laws to prevent abortions, making the historical record mixed at best. Not to Alito. The evidence as he saw it was overwhelming that abortion was not accepted in society. With that the right to an abortion–really the right to privacy that includes abortion–is dead.

Everyone needs to contemplate this reasoning because it is going to be used to declare many laws unconstitutional in every walk of life. It has already started with guns. The court just held that since there was no tradition dating back to the Constitution, of prohibiting people from engaging in self-defense by carrying a gun, then there can be no law that prohibits the public from carrying of a gun for self-protection now. So if you were allowed to own a musket for self-defense in 1789, you can carry a pistol right now, no questions asked. The absurdity of these tests is something to behold.

No doubt, this term will lead to more protests. There are a lot of contentious cases coming. I am ready, armed with my Sharpee marker. I’ll think of something clever.

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