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Ch. 3: Religious Expression in Public Places 
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Post Ch. 3: Religious Expression in Public Places
Chapter 3: Religious Expression in Public Places


Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 3: Religious Expression in Public Places, of Religious Expression and the American Constitution. Or you may create your own discussion threads. ::204

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 4/12/07 11:19 am



Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:12 am
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Post Re: "Religious Displays in Public Buildings"
Haiman begins this chapter with two 5-4 decisions ruling on the constitutionality of Christmas creche displays on public grounds. The first in Rhode Island in 1984 ruled constitutional because it included a banner that read "Season's Greetings." According to Haiman, the Opinion notes that, despite the "one religious faith" represented in the creche, the display included reindeer and a Santa Clause which secularized it as a generic seasonal wish (26). In a similar case in Pittsburgh, PA a creche display was ruled unconstitutional because it included a sign that read "Gloria in Excelsis Deo." J. O'Connor, who flipped on this second decision, found that this display was "a message to Christians that they are favored members of the political community" (27).

What is particularly notable to me in this case is J. O'Connor's flip, where she found the first case constitutional and the second not. Is it reasonable to think, especially in cases which set precedent, that a creche mixed in with generic Christmas decorations promotes religion less than a creche that stands alone? Even more so than the opposing findings are the opposing sentiments expressed in two Opinions. Haiman notes that J. Burger's Opinion in 1984 introduces the idea that the wall of separation was more a "useful metaphor" than "solely determinative" when applied to First Amendment establishment cases (26). Five years later in a companion case to Allegheny County v. ACLU, J. Brennan in his dissent wrote that the First Amendment was intended to "require neutrality, not just among religions, but between religion and nonreligion" (27). How the country is supposed to navigate such disjointed decisions, I don't know. How is it reasonable to find a creche is religious in one instance, and not in another? For me, it clearly demonstrates that even our Justices are unable to separate their personal religious values from their responsibility in upholding the ideals of the Constitution.

The most alarming decision in this section for me, possibly because it is such a recent case, was the 9-4 Sixth Circuit Court decision allowing Ohio to continue using as its state motto



Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:52 am
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Post Re: "Religious Displays in Public Buildings"
Rose: This recent finding scares me into thinking it is possible we are slipping into a country that no longer values the establishment clause. And, as Haiman noted at the outset of this book, once the establishment clause suffers, so too will free religious expression rights. Findings such as these should alarm any citizens who value the independent religious decisions they are now able to make.

I couldn't agree more. The failure of the Supreme Court to find and adhere to a consistent standard is one of the reasons these issues have become so contentious in recent years.

Many local government agencies continue to promote religions by promoting the symbols of religions. The notion, expressed in the Ohio case, that a generic "God" was being invoked in the phrase "With God all things are possible" stands reason on its head. No one worships or believes in a generic "God." A generic god couldn't be named "God" because that's already the name of a specific deity. At a minimum the name would have to be "god" with a lower case "g" and probably ought to be something else altogether, so as to avoid confusion. Of course, that would not serve the purposes of those who promote such expressions.

Besides, what business does any government agency -- be it federal, state or local -- have invoking a deity at all? This isn't religious expression. Government agencies have no business expressing religious viewpoints or endorsing religious icons. It's pandering to the prejudices of the majority. Unfortunately, it seems to be more and more common these days, and more and more acceptable.

The Supreme Court often seems unable to see the danger in such practices. It really does appear that religion is "privileged" in the eyes of many of the justices.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Sun Apr 29, 2007 1:40 pm
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Post Re: "Religious Displays in Public Buildings"
In this section, Haiman first references Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), which houses the three criteria that form the Lemon tests. This case involved two separate states, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, that had provided state aid to church schools, predominantly by subsidizing teachers' salaries. Where RI's District Court had ruled that such financial aid to religious schools was unconstitutional, SCOTUS affirmed; where the PA District Court ruled such aid was constitutional, SCOTUS reversed. Lemon outlined three tests utilized to limit legislation's involvement with religion:

Quote:
First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster 'an excessive government entanglement with religion' (Lemon citing Walz v. Tax Commission (182).


This three pronged test will often be invoked in the cases we explore.

I linked the whole Opinion above for convenience, but I think the sections included in Haiman's Appendix 10 are largely sufficient.




Mon Apr 30, 2007 1:35 pm
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I have to admit that I hadn't given much thought to the violation in government-sponsored prayer. I, like many non-Christians, used to be shocked by President Bush's constant invocations of the Christian Jesus, but I expect no better of the man these days. And the bowed heads in Congress, the clasping of hands to sing "God Bless America," seem to me to be political pandering to the ignorant masses



Mon Apr 30, 2007 1:42 pm
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Post Re: "Religious Displays in Public Buildings"
Garicker: The failure of the Supreme Court to find and adhere to a consistent standard is one of the reasons these issues have become so contentious in recent years.

This is certainly true. Where SCOTUS feels specific case decisions are required, it results in muddying the waters between what is and is not appropriate regarding establishment issues. And the inconsistent 5-4 decisions leave us with no clear ground on which to stand, slowly crumbling the wall of separation.

Garicker: Besides, what business does any government agency -- be it federal, state or local -- have invoking a deity at all? This isn't religious expression.

It's as though government representatives who promote government involvement in religion, and vice versa, are unwilling to separate their personal beliefs from their professional lives. The Ohio case, promoting stationary that reads "With God All Things Are Possible," clearly illustrates that these are individuals advancing their personal religious interests.

Garicker: Unfortunately, it seems to be more and more common these days, and more and more acceptable.

I can't decide if this is actually so or apparently so. The onslaught seems a product of the current administration, but the amount of fundamental Christians in this country has really seemed to explode.

Garicker: The Supreme Court often seems unable to see the danger in such practices.

And it's not just the Supreme Court, nor the courts as a whole. I think it was you, Garicker, who before raised the point that though the courts have a significant role in upholding civil liberties, it is also important for the legislature to recognize that responsibility too. I wonder if they (both the courts and legislature) recognize how incredibly short-sighted they are. Once precedent is set to prefer religion over non-religion or one religion over another, well it's just unimaginable what could result here in the states



Mon Apr 30, 2007 2:18 pm
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Post Re:
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And the bowed heads in Congress, the clasping of hands to sing "God Bless America," seem to me to be political pandering to the ignorant masses



Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:28 pm
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Post Re: �Government Sponsored Prayer�
Mr. P: But will there be satisfaction with just tearing down the wall...will there not be an eventual effort to erect a Christian wall? You do not think they will stop at such a small victory, do you?

Clearly they won't. Those who want to tear down the wall of separation between government and religions have as their goal the recognition of Christianity as the foundational religion of the United States, the unofficial official religion (a status which it already enjoys in many respects), if you will. And there are some who want it to be the official religion.

Back around 1980, when Jerry Falwell was first launching his Moral Majority, I tried to warn people of the danger inherent in the brand of fundamentalism he was preaching. Most of the people I talked to insisted his effort would never amount to anything because "no one is going to take this stuff seriously." Well, no one did take it seriously, and look where we are today.

I think the biggest failing of American civil society is that we have grown accustomed to relying on the courts to protect our rights.

Ultimately, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights can only protect us if we are willing to fight for the rights enshrined therein. The free exercise of religion, which also means the right to have no religion, cannot be protected if the establishment clause is not enforced. The American people need to come to the understanding that it is not just the rights of the nonreligious but those of the religious as well that are put at risk when the wall of separation is weakened. Unfortunately, so many Americans are so ignorant of their own history, I'm not sure such an understanding is possible.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Mon Apr 30, 2007 6:27 pm
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Post Re: "Government Sponsored Prayer"
Garicker: I tried to warn people of the danger inherent in the brand of fundamentalism he was preaching. Most of the people I talked to insisted his effort would never amount to anything because "no one is going to take this stuff seriously."

This is seriously reminiscent of the attitude Elie Wiesel outlines in Night. He recounts a man who came to the village he lived in telling of work camps and how Jews were being transported to these camps. No one believed that such a thing was possible in the twentieth century; and so their oppressors came quietly in the night, without resistance. Likewise, few really believe the U.S. can become a theocracy, except of course those who are carefully marching the country precisely that way. I hate to sound gloom and doom, but it seems clear to me that is exactly what is happening. And with the last two installations of the Supreme Court...they are very young Justices.

So, going back to prayer and government, Mr. P. Sure it is bothersome, and it is certainly a violation. But it's not what scares me. Let me put it this way, prayer before congressional sessions is just a symptom of the disease, the underlying causes of the disease are much more insidious and much more dangerous.




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Post Re: "Government Sponsored Prayer"
Quote:
So, going back to prayer and government, Mr. P. Sure it is bothersome, and it is certainly a violation. But it's not what scares me. Let me put it this way, prayer before congressional sessions is just a symptom of the disease, the underlying causes of the disease are much more insidious and much more dangerous.


There obviously is more under this small surface, but once this becomes 'business as usual', ie allowing prayer in the highest offices of our country, it facilitates the rapid spread of the disease. If you see a symptom, you need to cure the disease. If we ignore the symptoms, we are asking for trouble.

I am one that says we need to address every instance of this insinuation that we find. The whole 'war' is made up of small battles.

Mr. P.


I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

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Tue May 01, 2007 8:39 am
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Post Re: "Government Sponsored Prayer"
Mr. P.: If you see a symptom, you need to cure the disease. If we ignore the symptoms, we are asking for trouble.

I understand what you're saying, Mr.P; I agree that the issue warrants attention. Prayer before congressional meetings just is not my focus. I don't intend to ignore those symptoms, but treating symptoms is just that...treating symptoms. If I have the flu and I take cough syrup to ease my cough, then my cough will go away. But the flu is still there, eliciting other symptoms. Stopping congresspeople from praying before meetings does only that much. However, stopping congresspeople from legislating according to their religious belief garners better results in treating the disease. And the treatment of the actual disease could help to alleviate other symptoms.

(BTW, just to clarify this metaphor, by "disease" I mean an intentional commingling of religion and government.)




Tue May 01, 2007 10:14 am
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Post Re: Military Chaplains
Rose: Notably mentioned in the speech was the proselytizing and the militant aggression utilized for evangelical purposes. Although, I don't know if this was a product of the chaplains' actions or other military officials...

Yes, I've seen similar reports in other places. There seems to be an effort to Christianize America's armed forces. I'm sure some chaplains are probably involved, although I imagine many are as Frank describes them -- more in the "Father Mulcahey" model, if you remember M*A*S*H.

George

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Wed May 02, 2007 6:13 pm
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Post Re: Military Chaplains
Garicker: ...if you remember M*A*S*H.

Heh...nope. That was a bit before my time.




Wed May 02, 2007 6:55 pm
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Post Re: Military Chaplains
I feel it necessary to point out I have been out of the military for quite a while, I mustered out shortly after Desert Storm. There has been ample time for changes since then.

Later




Wed May 02, 2007 7:26 pm
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Post Re: Military Chaplains
Quote:
Garicker: ...if you remember M*A*S*H.

Heh...nope. That was a bit before my time.


I really hate when young people say stuff like this...makes me feel old.

::101

Mr. P.


I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




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