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On Town Prayer, the Majority Has Its Way ^ | May 8, 2014 | Steve Chapman

Posted on 05/08/2014 8:08:46 AM PDT by Kaslin

The United States was founded mostly by Protestants and remained overwhelmingly Protestant for many decades, a fact Protestants did not want Roman Catholics to forget. When Catholics began arriving here in large numbers in the middle of the 19th century, they found that in public schools the majority religion was pervasive and inhospitable.

Catholic children, one historian wrote, had "to attend schools where the King James Bible was read, where Protestant hymns were being sung" and where lessons were "very much anti-Catholic." Catholics resisted, and Protestants took offense. In Philadelphia, the conflict provoked deadly riots and the torching of a Catholic church.

Unwilling to tolerate being treated like alien intruders and second-class citizens, Catholics set up their own schools. That way, they didn't have to have their beliefs denied and their minority status rubbed in their faces.

In the 21st century, American Catholics no longer have to worry about official discrimination and disrespect. That's especially true on the United States Supreme Court, whose nine justices include six Catholics -- and no Protestants.

But the Puritans didn't come to America seeking religious freedom; they came seeking the chance to force their religion on others rather than have other religions forced on them. Likewise, the lesson five of the Catholic justices apparently have learned from history is not that the minority should be protected by the Constitution. It's that it's good to be in the majority.

Catholics are now part of the national majority, which is Christian rather than Protestant and pays far less attention to doctrinal differences than it once did. The minority today consists of Americans who don't share the dominant faith: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, atheists and so on.

They are the ones insulted by the town council of Greece, N.Y., which for years has invited clergy to give invocations before its monthly meetings. From 1999, when the prayers began, until 2008, not one of them was led by a non-Christian. When someone complained, the council accommodated Jewish, Baha'i and Wiccan representatives, before reverting to a steady diet of Christians.

The Christian pastors' entreaties to the Almighty were sometimes bland but often not. One invoked "the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross." Another referred to "the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

The message received by residents Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway, the former an atheist and the latter Jewish, was that they were different and inferior. "Some of these pastors tell you to stand up and bow your heads to pray to Jesus, and what if you don't believe that?" Galloway asked the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. "And if you refuse to stand up and bow your head, you stand out. It's a coercive situation."

In a decision Monday, though, the Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that the council prayers are akin to the invocations offered in legislatures and Congress, which it has approved. But Justice Elena Kagan noted that the two are not the same. The council meetings involve citizen participation, which sessions of legislatures and Congress don't, and the prayers in Greece are directed at the audience, not the lawmakers.

Citizens normally don't have to sit through a prayer to testify in a congressional hearing. But residents of Greece must do that to make requests at a town council meeting. As Kagan wrote, someone in this position "must think -- it is hardly paranoia, but only the truth -- that Christian worship has become entwined with local governance."

Publicly disassociating yourself from Christianity may offend the elected officials who exercise power over you. If you want something from the council but are put off by the appeal to Jesus, you have to ask yourself the "Dirty Harry" question: Do you feel lucky?

The court sees no constitutional violation mainly because the practice evokes no discomfort in the majority. If it did, it wouldn't be tolerated. The four dissenters include, along with Sonia Sotomayor, all three Jewish justices -- who don't have to imagine what it's like to be part of a tiny and not universally beloved minority.

The council claims it is open to different religious voices. But what if it were flooded with invocation requests from Muslims, pagans and Satanists? If the council members and other attendees had to regularly endure prayers they found obnoxious, rest assured, the invocation ritual would be eliminated.

In Greece and in the Supreme Court, a variant of the Golden Rule is in effect: Do unto others what you wouldn't let them do unto you.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: prayer; supremecourt; townhallmeeting

1 posted on 05/08/2014 8:08:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

“But the Puritans didn’t come to America seeking religious freedom; they came seeking the chance to force their religion on others rather than have other religions forced on them.”

Smells like BS.

2 posted on 05/08/2014 8:13:26 AM PDT by PetroniusMaximus
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To: Kaslin
This is about tolerance. Just as we tolerate atheists, they must tolerate us.

IMHO, They threw in the Jewish lady because of the makeup of the court.

Here's the real summary....atheists are inferring that we can change their mind about atheism. But one can only change their own mind.

3 posted on 05/08/2014 8:14:30 AM PDT by Sacajaweau
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To: Kaslin
I lived in Virginia for a year. Pretty hard to find a Catholic church down there.

Baptists, Baptists everywhere!!

There is a distinct difference between the religions of the north and south.

4 posted on 05/08/2014 8:17:25 AM PDT by Sacajaweau
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To: Kaslin

This column is complete claptrap.

This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values. If people who come here don’t like that, they can leave. In fact, they should leave and let us live in peace.

5 posted on 05/08/2014 8:17:30 AM PDT by WashingtonSource
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To: PetroniusMaximus

Actually, what the court decided was that sectarian prayers are ok so long as there is a method for selecting those who pray that is open to all groups wishing to have their one minute at the podium.

Here is the truth.

The first amendment gives any council member the authority to stand up and pray at any moment as part of their speech IF they believe it is something they should do based on their own understanding of their religious faith.

That authority is called ‘free exercise’ of religion. We don’t have a right to ‘free worship in religion.’ We have a right to ‘free exercise of religion’.

IOW, my religion is part of who I am everywhere I go and not just in some building on Sunday.

6 posted on 05/08/2014 8:22:41 AM PDT by xzins ( Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! Those who truly support our troops pray for victory!)
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To: Kaslin; Maudeen

Thank God how He used Baptists to establish religious freedom in America.

The following is a short outline linking Baptist persecution to relgious freedom and great revival in America

7 posted on 05/08/2014 9:11:39 AM PDT by stars & stripes forever (Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.)
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To: Kaslin
Sounds to me like the author of this piece is a whiny, anti-Protestant liberal!

That's OK, but to whine because listening to someone of another faith seems to be offensive to the writer and no one today, should ever be offended, no one except Christians, especially Evangelical Protestants!

8 posted on 05/08/2014 9:15:34 AM PDT by zerosix (Native Sunflower)
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