Daniel Horowitz – June 29, 2018
In case you thought that the potential to flip Justice Kennedy’s seat alone will bring us back to the constitutional promised land, think again. So long as the lower courts are not restrained, we will never return to the Constitution and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
There is nothing more radical than a lower court granting standing to random plaintiffs to sue against non-coerced public prayer in county government meetings, prayers that have been going on since our founding. Yet a district judge in 2015 and the en banc decision of the radical Fourth Circuit in 2017 barred Rowan County, North Carolina, from opening council sessions with a prayer, similar to what our federal Congress does every day. Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari to the appeal from Rowan County, despite three years of being under a tyranny that the judges know is unconstitutional.
We shouldn’t even need to get into court precedent to understand our heritage and the true meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But just four years ago, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority that as long as the prayer “comports with our tradition and does not coerce participation by non-adherents,” there is no room for judicial intervention. “To hold that invocations must be non-sectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech,” Kennedy wrote in the 2014 case.
Talia Wise – February 10, 2018
Tensions are running high at several schools in Cleveland, Ohio after the district banned prayer before athletic events last month. Students and parents on both sides of the issue are speaking up.
It all began, when West Branch School District stopped the long-standing tradition of prayer after receiving a letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
The letter claims that a prayer was made over the loudspeaker before a high school basketball game, which FFRF says is unconstitutional.
“It was reported that all in attendance were asked to remain standing for this prayer and that the prayer was Christian in nature,” the letter reads.
Superintendent Tim Saxton sent a letter to parents stating schools would stop praying until the district could get in contact with its lawyer, but a large part of the community is pushing for prayer to return quickly.
Heather Clark -November 23, 2017
JONESBORO, Ark. — A prayer thanking God for life’s blessings was recently removed from an Arkansas elementary school’s Thanksgiving program after one of the nation’s most conspicuous atheist activists groups lodged a complaint.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the superintendent of the Westside Consolidated School District on Nov. 10 after being informed by a parent that students at Westside Elementary School were sent home with lyrics to memorize for the program, which included a prayer of thanks to God.
“Thank You for the world so sweet/Thank You for the food we eat/Thank You for the birds that sing/Thank You, God, for everything,” the poem was to have read.
FFRF contended that the prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Heather Clark – August 24, 2017
BREMERTON, Wash. — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Washington football coach who was put out of a job in 2015 as school district officials decided not to renew his contract in the midst of a battle over his desire to pray at the 50-yard line.
“While we ‘recognize the important role that public worship plays in many communities, as well as the sincere desire to include public prayer as part of [these] occasions,’ such activity can promote disunity along religious lines, and risks alienating valued community members from an environment that must be open and welcoming to all,” wrote Judge Milan Smith, appointed to the bench by then-President George W. Bush, on behalf of the three-judge panel.
“That is why the ‘preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere, which itself is promised freedom to pursue that mission,’” he said, quoting from the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Lee v. Weisman.
Heather Clark – March 22, 2017
WILLIS, Texas — A prominent professing atheist group has filed a lawsuit against a Texas judge over his practice of opening court with a prayer from a local chaplain.
As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) first sent a letter to Judge Wayne Mack of Willis in 2014, stating that it had received a complaint from an attorney and a local citizen, who said they felt coerced to participate out of fear of being disrespectful. Mack ignored the correspondence.
FFRF then sent a complaint to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which—along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick—then requested that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issue a formal opinion on the prayers in Mack’s courtroom.
Last August, Paxton upheld Mack’s prayer practice as being lawful and consistent with both American history and legal precedent. He pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway.