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

 

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy