The Supreme Court recently ruled, in Town of Greece v Galloway, that the Town of Green, by opening its Town Board meetings with a prayer by a volunteer chaplain is not violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment, even if the prayer happens to mention a specific deity. Naturally, Atheists generally and the Freedom from Religion Foundation particularly are responding in the calm, thoughtful, rational way we have all come to expect. Or, maybe not, judging from this item on their blog. I am not sure to what extent this is an official position taken by the FfRF but they did allow it to be published on their website, so I must assume they approve of the sentiments.
Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Greece v. Galloway is potentially disastrous for state-church separation. This decision could be the equivalent of Dred Scott or Plessy for our cause. FFRF’s new “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” award/contest is a great incentive and call to action and I hope that hundreds or thousands of citizen activists will take up the challenge. As an activist who has openly protested public prayer on many occasions, I offer the following opinion and suggestions for others to consider going forward.
Justice Kennedy’s argument provided substantial reasoning to strike down Marsh v Chambers and prohibit government-sponsored prayer altogether, but his conclusion was all wrong. With this ruling the high court has opened the door for local majority religions (and religious thugs) to take over city and state government proceedings. “Majority rule” is not democracy and this ill-thought decision should give supporters of Christian prayer pause in light of America’s rapidly shifting demographics. Public prayers will not always be Christian, especially in cities like Dearborn, Mich., which has a growing Muslim majority, or Clearwater, Fla., that has a majority of Scientology followers. These and other influential religions will begin to assert themselves in isolated areas where Christianity is not the majority religion.
Well, actually majority rule is democracy, which is why I am not really a fan of democracy. I prefer a republic in which while public opinion plays some role in making policies, there are checks against a tyranny of the majority and the rights of minorities and individuals are protected. Personally, I have no objection at all to people of other religions praying in public, provided they extend the same courtesy to me. I think I might get along a lot better with a Muslim or Scientologist than I would with a member of the FfRF who does not seem inclined to extend any courtesy at all to me.
Next, there is a four step plan of action. One and two are complain and demand diversity. Number three is:
3. Voice or otherwise express disapproval or objection
When the public is made captive or invited to participate in public prayers, this very act opens a limited opportunity for immediate petition for a redress of grievances. If members of the public are allowed to voice approval in any way (e.g., by answering “Amen” after a prayer or by applauding or cheering after invocations), the public must also be allowed to voice disapproval (e.g., by booing, making thumbs down gestures, blowing a raspberry, or by making other audible sounds signifying disapproval).
The government may not allow positive feedback or approval while at the same time prohibiting negative feedback or disapproval. It’s all or nothing. Total silence or every voice must be heard. Citizens may also express disapproval by remaining seated when urged to stand or by looking up or straight ahead when asked to bow. Citizens may also abruptly walk out of government proceedings and then make an auspicious re-entry as soon as the prayer has ended. Creative activists will find ways to express themselves in these circumstances.
So, if a chaplain begins a prayer, they will make asses of themselves in public by booing, gesturing, and ostentatiously remaining seated or leaving the room. It gets better.
4. Public mockery
If after the above actions have been taken, the government continues to insult atheists and/or religious minorities with sectarian prayers, activists may turn to public mockery and ridicule. One example is the “prayer mockery hat.” Activist can easily make a brightly colored hat with large ear muffs and dark sunglasses. Wording on the cap could say: “I OBJECT TO PRAYER!” Then, as soon as the pastor or chaplain has been introduced, activists can put on their “prayer mockery hat” with exaggeration and then remain seated throughout the prayer, completely ignoring the pastor until finished. Activists can also mount a small GoPro-style camera to their cap to record the response for posting on Facebook or Youtube.com.
In spite of the disastrous ruling, the fight is not over. We must not submit to this subjugation of our constitutional right to be free FROM unwanted religious intrusion by government. Indeed, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” so let us use reason and our constitutional rights of free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances to our full advantage.
Have you ever wondered why Atheists tend to be unpopular? Or why a majority of people would not vote for an Atheist for president even if he was otherwise qualified for the job? Perhaps it might have something to do with the sort of antics advocated here. I don’t imagine all, or even most, Atheists would approve of this sort of juvenile behavior, but unfortunately the Atheists most in the public eye tend to come across as ignorant, intolerant jackasses. I think that it is somewhat ironic that the people who continually assert that they are more rational, intelligent, and tolerant than those of us yahoos who believe in God should act in such an irrational and disrespectful manner.
- Radical Atheist Group Calls For “Booing” And “Blowing Raspberries” To Disrupt Public Prayer After Supreme Court Ruling… (weaselzippers.us)
- Thin skins & prayer (triblive.com)
- Prayer in the Public Square (online.wsj.com)
- Supreme Court: It’s OK to Say ‘Jesus’ in Prayers at Town Meetings (cnsnews.com)