“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in synagogues and on street corners to be seen by others. Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is invisible. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Imagine if a Flagler Palm Coast High School football coach who happened to be a Muslim decided one day after a game to spread his mat over the 50-yard line, point his pretty mihrab design towards Mecca, incline his callused forehead on the ground and intones a rhythmic Muslim prayer to Allahu Akbars.
It is doubtful that a) the coach, having an instinct for self-preservation, would do this in the first place; b) that the crowd would be more welcoming than a herd of arms rally was in Borat; or c) that anyone would join him, whether Muslim or out of ecumenical solidarity. In a neighborhood where even wearing the shirt of a rival school could get you kicked off campusit is not difficult to guess that the fate of the trainer would not be exalted.
You don’t have to imagine this next scene. It is at the heart of a United States Supreme Court case. Joseph Kennedy was a high school coach near Seattle. A Christian coach. He took a knee – no, not that knee— and prayed at the 50-yard line after games, a gesture that became a magnet for students and others who crowded around him like in a divine scrum.
The school district asked him to stop using the 50-yard line as a stage. He could pray, but not use the gesture as spectacle (or bait to students who may feel compelled to join in, but this dimension of prayer is not in court). As a public school coach showing off his act, he was turning a private prayer, which is protected by the First Amendment, into an endorsement of religion, which is prohibited by the First Amendment.
Kennedy refused, knowing what was to follow. He was fired. Nothing like a fanatic’s sense of opportunity. It was what had drawn Kennedy to the 50-yard line, after all. So he sued, finding in the First Liberty Institute just the kind of templars seeks to make the Supreme Court crusaders its new Jerusalem.
The tribunal heard the case end of April. No need for leaks or illusions. Oral arguments were prophesied. The court will decide for Kennedy by at least a 5 to 4 vote, most likely 6 to 3, because on questions of Christian supremacy Chief Justice John Roberts is just a rattle more enthurible with them.
But he will do this by making a right not only out of emanations and penumbra like those the court has used to extend the right to privacy, including Roe v. Wade, but out of nothing. We saw similar fabrications in Bush v Gore in 2000 and DC v Heller in 2008, the decision inventing an individual right to bear arms (a right that I statutorily support, but do not claim is in the Constitution, at least not if you are an original as the author of the decision.)
“I don’t know how we could write an opinion that draws a line based on not putting yourself in the center of attention as the head coach of a game,” judge Brett Kavanaugh said. said in argumentsshowing his hand as did all the judges supporting Kennedy. This is how Kavanaugh uses reason itself do not find for Kennedy as a way to find for him.
There is unseemly ostentation in the act. The show is the act, because there would be none without it. The prayer is entirely dependent on the scene of a 50-yard line at a public school event, the focal point of the entire stadium. Otherwise, why not pray humbly as he claims to have wanted, as a private act, as the apostle Matthew urges, invisible and behind closed doors, for example, or wherever he may be on the sidelines at the end of a game? So whether others join or not is irrelevant. Potential coercion is irrelevant. His deliberately central act draws attention and preaches loud and clear, smugly and discriminatingly.
It’s like Henry Sawyer III, plead before the Supreme Court in the 1963 Pennsylvania case that struck down school-sponsored Bible readings, told the judges, “the final arrogance of constantly talking about our religious tradition in this country and letting them know about this Bible. Of course , the religious tradition. What religious tradition? It’s not part of the religious tradition of a substantial number of Americans. … And it’s just for me a little easy and I say arrogant to continue talking about our religious tradition This suggests that the public schools, at least as far as Pennsylvania, are a kind of Protestant institutions to which others are cordially invited.
That was 60 years ago, when the country was far less religiously diverse than it is today. Kennedy’s act erases that reality and takes us back to an age of presumptuous assumptions. It assumes that a Muslim, Jew, Shinto, Pagan or Atheist could never – that’s all you need to know about the reason and genius of the establishment clause – that the act is fully accepted. Maybe it’s in Kennedy’s little world. It’s not in the law. This has not been in practice. It should never be so, if we want to remain the secular society where no sect can claim supremacy.
the success secular society, should I say: in all measures, of belief in god (same in the angels) for attendance at religious services in prayer, Americans rank among the the most pious in the western world same as Christianity decreased by 12 in the last decade. But that’s the catch. He did it not because there are fewer believers (that remains 90 percent), but because the country has become more religiously mixed and fewer people are choosing to join an organized cult.
Tales as laughable as those of Encounter with the ark and other evangelical versions of Manichaean America aside, Christianity is not under attack in this country. It is not in danger even if its number decreases compared to other religions. On the contrary. It assaults the senses like no other religion does wherever one goes, from workplaces to public places to billboards and every other social media page to the presumptuous preaching of strangers at public meetings, where local officials like to spout their morals between every other act of contempt. for those who oppose their holiness.
This is the context of Joseph Kennedy’s choreographed prayer. It is not about religious freedom. It’s not about God. It’s not even about praying, none of this needs the 50 meter line of a public the school grounds to express themselves sincerely. But it’s not about sincerity either. It’s about imposing a version of Christianity — boastful, ostentatious, in your face and down your throat — on an increasingly pluralistic society in one of the last places where that kind of patronage has no place. . It is intolerance by exclusivity.
Don’t worry though, it will soon be the law, and something more consequential. It will be the fulfillment of a vision of the American government by Antonin Scalia, the late court prophet. “The Lord has repaid – done justice – through his minister, the state,” Scalia said at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2002, before explicitly rejecting secular democracy: “The reaction believers in this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation, but resolution to combat it as effectively as possible.
Joseph Kennedy’s prayer is about to give Christian arrogance its final victory at the expense of a society that is becoming more diverse but less civil, less tolerant, and more theocratic by the day.
Pierre Tristam is the editor-in-chief of FlaglerLive. Contact him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF. Disclosure: In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District in Supreme Court, attorneys for Americans United for Separation of Church and State represent the Bremerton School District. Merrill Shapiro, who chairs the board of FlaglerLive, also chairs the Atlantic Coast chapter of Americans United. He was not involved in the preparation of this column.