A couple hundred years ago, a band of radical thinkers enacted a Constitution. It was entirely new in the history of the world, explicitly spelling out that the government would not involve religion, and citizenship (and its benefits) was not contingent on membership in a preferred faith. There would be no religious test for holding office. No “established” national Church.
One of the authors of that Constitution coined the phrase that there would be a “wall of separation” between religion and government.
And yet, May 5, 2014, the Supreme Court (also established in that very same Constitution) ruled that governing bodies may open their deliberations with explicitly Christian prayers, because it’s a part of “our tradition.”
Words nearly fail me. When the Constitution was written these very same founders wrote in provisions allowing slavery, banning women from voting, and other “traditions” that we have long ago cast off for their deleterious effects on society and the principles of “justice for all.” So, justifying privilege for Christianity under some specious “tradition” argument is about the most egregious miscarriage of justice I can imagine 5 Supreme Court Justices making… unless they interjected themselves into a presidential election in unprecedented ways (Bush v. Gore), or if,… wait, bear with me, I know this is ludicrous… or if they ruled that Money is speech and Corporations are people (Citizens United), or that the rich should have more rights to representation (FEC v. McCutcheon).
Thank GOD none of those things could happen! Why, in such a looney tunes world, the next step would be to consider if Corporations are entitled to religious free exercise. (Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius)
But let’s make one thing patently clear as we discuss this decision: This is not about “offence.” Anyone who tries to say that atheists (or Muslims, Buddhists, Jain’s, etc.) just need to get a thicker skin and stop being offended, is missing the point. Government needs to get on with Governing, and in America that means without providing ANY kind of indication that any citizen is less a part of the body politic than any other; without implying that any organization MIGHT receive more favorable treatment because they are a part of the majority faith, or were willing to stand and vow allegiance to a deity ostensibly interested in our nation. This decision denies equal representation and justice for citizens in the daily workings of their government entities. (This author says it more thoroughly and eloquently than I, please read and enjoy a great writer. )
Eliminating such parochialism is idealistic, but I believe we can and should be striving for ideals that improve the lot of all citizens. Some say I’m “too invested” in this issue. I will die proud of being invested in the pursuit of “justice for all,” rather than fighting to preserve ignorant, self-serving tribal privilege, favoritism and exclusionary practices.