A Seven-Year Court Battle over a Florida Prayer Vigil and the Future of Religious Freedom in America

In 2014, in the wake of a shooting in which multiple children were injured, the city of Ocala, Florida held a prayer vigil. Three of those present, along with the American Humanist Association, sued, claiming that the involvement of municipal officials in organizing the event entailed unconstitutional government support for religion. The suit has dragged on ever since, as both plaintiffs and defendants believe they are taking a stand on a matter of principle. Kesley Dallas writes:

In any setting, it would be nearly impossible to get members of the two camps onto the same page. But the legal system seems especially ill-suited for resolving this conflict, since related cases often get bogged down by, or dismissed due to, questions of standing and disagreements between parties over what really took place.

Still, the Supreme Court has provided some important insights over the years. For one thing, it’s said that the government can’t coerce people to pray, especially not impressionable public-school students on their graduation day. . . . The court has also said that government officials shouldn’t privilege one particular faith over others by, for example, allowing only Christians to offer prayers before legislative meetings. However, it hasn’t been receptive to the argument that allowing any prayer to be offered in that setting privileges believers over atheists.

[But] lawsuits focus on what the Constitution allows. They rarely enable communities to figure out what pluralism looks like in action or help public officials understand how to be more inclusive when they talk about their faith. [In a sense], the legal system is not equipped to answer what, at the end of the day, are political and social questions: how, as a community, should we celebrate or mourn? How do we use faith to draw people together, rather than tear them apart?

Read more at Deseret News

More about: American law, Florida, Freedom of Religion, Religion and politics

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy