Democracies need all the help they can get, including religion, to muster the better angels of ourselves for the sacrifice that sustains decent politics.
There’s been another naughty pastor. No, not the usual, but instead a minister who mentioned Christ’s name when asked to pray at a town council meeting. (They will do that!) Happily, the offending pastor need not repair to Capri, for the Supreme Court upheld the prayer in yesterday’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. I’m especially delighted, since it means that pastors need not follow the advice I gave them in The American Spectator. Since obscene speech enjoys First Amendment protection, and since it doesn’t raise religious establishment problems, I suggested that pastors might prudently lace their sermons with a few F-Bombs.
All the same, I’d be happier with non-sectarian prayers, and happier still were the question left to the sense of decorum and mutual respect of a polite society. The Court ruled that it was permissible to invoke Christ’s blessing in prayers so long as other religions are not denigrated. That still excludes Jews, however, unlike non-sectarian prayers. Still, the decision comes down to a very clear signal that the Court REALLY doesn’t want to start policing civic prayers, and that’s a blessing in itself.
Nothing is more tiresome than the secular busybodies who would have us think that we’re only a short step away from Holy Fascism. There’s just us and the Ayatollahs, and nobody in between. Now, as it happens, I grew up in one of those in between places, a small French Canadian village. I once told a friend of mine, an Afro-American federal judge, that most of my teachers were nuns in the public school I attended. He found that deeply troubling, as I expect most Americans would. “Didn’t anyone object,” he asked? “Yes,” I told him. “There was one group. Their motto was ‘One country, one language, one school system.’ It was the Ku Klux Klan.”
There is an established church in England, and Catholics and Protestants are granted special rights in the Canadian Constitution. In both countries, an antidisestablishmentarian (bet you haven’t seen that word recently) ethos has encouraged governments to subsidize denominational schools, Christian and Jewish. For the countries that most closely resemble the U.S., it is one of the ironies of history that there is more free exercise of religion where religions are established than in a country where the non-establishment clause sometimes trenches on the free exercise of religion.