Monday, May 5, 2014

Supreme Being Supremes

The town in upstate New York that gained notoriety a couple of years ago for the viral video of the bullied bus monitor has made the news again. The Supreme Court ruled today that the monthly town board meetings of Greece may now legally begin with a prayer from a "chaplain of the month."

Controversy and outrage ensue. While it's SOP to begin meetings in this country with a pledge of allegiance to the American flag as the symbol of "one nation under God," swearing allegiance to God without the jingoism has long been considered undemocratic in public settings.

What's the big deal? Prior to every corporate-tested school day, before every bloodthirsty sporting event, before every political meeting, we Americans lie, en masse, by proclaiming that there is liberty and justice for all in the One Indispensable Nation. And God is yet to be banned from the Pledge.

Plaintiffs argued before the Court that imposing upon an invisible Guy in the Sky to extra-nationally bless us is unconstitutional. According to the previous  decision rendered by the New York State Court of Appeals, the prayers of the Greece town meetings have tended heavily toward the Christian idea of God, thus violating the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The Supreme Beings, in office for life, disagreed by their usual 5-4 margin and overturned the lower court ruling.

So, the deity barely squeaked through to gain parity with the Stars & Stripes. According to the decision, municipalities will not be allowed to directly proselytize one faith over another -- although the courts will not, of course, appoint any "prayer police" to make sure that such niceties are adhered to. The exception would be in a case where the audience was "coerced" into participating in prayers. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog has all the details here.

How about we just do away with pledges and prayers of all stripes and get on with the important municipal business of awarding no-bid cable franchises, purchasing military hardware for the police department, arguing over millimeters on property lines, and granting friendly variances to marauding developers? Ritual incantations of any sort have the effect of giving the absolving stamp of approval to some pretty shady stuff, as history has shown. Always beware of politicians claiming to have both God and Flag on their side.

From Adam Liptak of the New York Times:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”
They both actually do have a point. With the NSA taking the place of God as the all-knowing, all-seeing Eye in the Sky, many Americans are indeed insisting, like Kennedy, that their existence should be beyond government authority. And Kagan is absolutely correct about every citizen being promised, by the First Amendment, ownership of an equal share of government. Key word: promise. Because as recent studies show, we are now living in a de facto oligarchy. Democracy is dead. 

All the more ironic, seeing how the Town Without Pity is named after Greece, the original birthplace of democracy. That nation, like many a town and state here, is being sucked dry and plundered by the austerian global banking cartel. 

Liptak continues,
Town officials said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, the federal appeals court in New York said, almost all of the chaplains were Christian.
Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion.
Maybe some Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Jews, Jains, Sikhs, Jehovah's Witnesses, Satanists, Scientologists, Wiccans, atheists and pagans can be prevailed upon to converge on the town, volunteer for the Chaplain of the Month Club, and thus ease some of the burden on the establishment Christians.  After all, the Town of Greece does have a history of championing the marginalized, the underdog, and the oppressed: town fathers originally named the place to show solidarity with Greece in its own 19th century struggle for liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

And if the diverse volunteers aren't forthcoming, officials can always schedule a referendum that would make a stint as Town Chaplain mandatory, like jury duty. They can draft people the Shirley Jackson way, through an annual lottery. (let he who is without sin cast the first stone.) Maybe some born-again Bus Bullies can do the drawing and transportation honors.

Plus, sordid history of bullying notwithstanding, the Town of Greece has been named the ninth (shades of Supreme Court!) safest place to live in the One Indispensable Nation. And all the schools have enlightened Greek names: Olympia, Apollo, Odyssey Academy, Arcadia and Athena.

 "Written laws are like spider's webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful." -- Anarcharsis, 6th century B.C.

"Life is short." --  Hippocrates, c. 460-357 B.C.


Pearl said...

Thank you once more, Karen, for writing the truth about Obamacare after viewing another offkey support for it by Krugman. It is obvious he doesn't read the many excellent articles in Truthout exposing the sleazy financial tactics by the insurance companies who are running the show. Your second contribution of the differences between Obamacare and Health Care bill #676 tells it all. Please also add your two comments to Krugman to our website incase anyone still thinks that the ACA makes any sense. My Canadian friends cannot understand the ignorance prevalent in the U.S. about this issue and I have to remind them to treasure the coverage we all take for granted here.

Concerned Reader said...

Prayer and the Supreme Court?

Yes Karen, please stop going off topic from your New York Times comments.

James F Traynor said...

Keep it up, Karen. Just because God has become a perennial pain in the ass doesn't mean we have to put up with the attendant bullshit. Anyone who has taken the time to look at that moment in the official formation of this nation (when the 'boys' wore knickers and long socks) knows that religion scared the shit out of them. And for damned good reason.

Pearl said...

The Supreme Court OKs Prayer at Town Meetings. Get Ready for a Lot More Jesus in Your Life. via @slate

James F Traynor said...

Just think, this all started with an eccentric Jewish carpenter some two thousand years ago who got himself crucified for making waves in a recalcitrant Roman colony. It took Constantine, a political genius to turn it to the Empire's advantage as Gibbon back in the 18'th century so ably pointed out and it has been a pimple on the ass of progress ever since.

The Abrahamic religious group (Christian, Islam and Judaism) has been a disaster as far as I'm concerned. Though it must be said that the least fault lies with Judaism, though the state of Israel is doing its best to catch up. And they did start the whole damned thing. Still, we goys really ran with the ball. Just think of Oral Roberts. Jeez!