The Supreme Court Will Soon Decide Whether Praying in Public Schools is a Firing Offense

“In April,” Vincent Phillip Muñoz writes, “the Court heard oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case involving a football coach at a public high school who lost his job after repeatedly kneeling on the 50-yard line in post-game prayer.” Muñoz notes that school officials had good reason to believe that the coach’s conduct violated tests used by the Supreme Court to enforce the Constitution’s establishment clause. This case, he argues, presents an opportunity to overturn harmful and erroneous precedents regarding “what constitutes a prohibited establishment of religion.”

The Court’s “endorsement” test holds that state actors, including public-school officials, may not endorse religion. . . . A different establishment-clause precedent prohibits schools from “psychologically coercing” students to pray. That test, created by Justice Anthony Kennedy, led the Court to strike down nondenominational invocations and benedictions at high-school graduations (Lee v. Weisman, 1992). And the Court still has not thrown out Chief Justice Warren Burger’s “Lemon” test that requires the government act with a secular purpose, not advance religion, and also not “excessively entangle” itself with religion.

These long-established establishment-clause precedents all derive in one way or another from the Court’s original “wall of separation” decision in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). They also mean that, once school-district officials found out about Coach Kennedy’s prayers, they were all but obligated to try to stop it lest they face a lawsuit for “endorsing” religion, indirectly coercing students to pray, or improperly advancing religious belief.

Therein lies the first of several problems with the Court’s establishment-clause precedents. They effectively demand government hostility toward religion. If school district officials don’t act against religious activities and expressions, they will be sued by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or some other like-minded progressive activist organization. The easiest way for administrators to avoid controversy is to simply keep religion off school grounds.

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Read more at First Things

More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter