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June 23, 2000

John Paul on School Prayer

The Supremes ruled that Texas public school districts can’t let students lead a crowd in prayer before football games. “School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens.

Memo to Justice Stevens: Does this cover all the “New Age” babble being uttered in the classroom? We will buy you a steak dinner if you can find the words “separation of church and state” – or anything even close to those words – in our Constitution, a document which, its author said in the Federalist Papers, should never be subject to “interpretation.”

Stevens added, “Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote.” We think that is precisely what the majority of the court did in this case.

“There is nothing in the Constitution giving the Supreme Court the authority to decide the constitutionality of federal laws, let alone state laws,” notes Von Mises Institute scholar Lew Rockwell. “These dictators in black have no authority to tell a Texas school that it may not have prayer before a football game. The First Amendment simply prevents the feds from establishing a religion; the states are free to do as they choose.”

More to the point, the RNC’s Jim Nicholson says, “Six of nine Supreme Court justices have chosen to severely weaken the First Amendment’s explicit guarantee of freedom of religious expression.”

Our favorite Demo agitator, Rep. James Traficant added, “The Supreme Court says pornography is OK and it is OK to burn the flag, that communists can work in our defense plants, that it is OK to teach witchcraft in our schools and that it is OK for our students to write papers about the devil. But the Supreme Court says it is illegal to write papers about Jesus, it is illegal to pray in school, and now the Supreme Court says it is even illegal to pray before a football game. … I thought the Founders intended to create a Supreme Court, not the Supreme Being. Think about that statement. I yield back a Supreme Court that is so politically correct they are downright stupid, so stupid they could throw themselves at the ground and miss.”

The Federalist position in this case is, of course, that decisions about prayers in public settings should be left to the several states, which would be well-advised to then remand particular decisions to localities and school districts.

This case is a fine example of why the Founders opposed direct taxation. The federal government forcibly takes money from taxpayers in every state, then returns to those states the portion of those taxes not consumed by the bureaucracies’ “handling fee” – in this case, by the U.S. Department of Education – along with all the central government’s mandates in tow. Thus, the fact that schools use “federalized” dollars is cited as “justification” for such asinine federal bench rulings.

For almost forty years, the High Court has endeavored to remove any acknowledgement of God from schools. Of this ruling, Chief Justice William Rehnquist notes in his dissenting opinion, “Even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the court’s opinion: It bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.” The ruling may well have broader implications for other “public square” expressions of faith.

This seems an appropriate place to make a point about the “centrist” leanings of George W. versus the radical left policies of Al Gore. While our Editorial Board takes exception to Mr. Bush’s “rush to the center,” the fact remains that the next president may replace as many as three Supreme Court justices (including William Rehnquist, who is 75 years old). The Court now precariously hangs in 5-4 balance on most major issues, including federalism. While our Editorial Board would most like to see a trustworthy conservative like Dr. Alan Keyes making those appointments from the White House, the thought of Al Gore making those appointments is, to say the least, unsettling!

This is why our Editorial Board makes the recommendation that conservative activists dedicate their efforts to electing conservatives to Congress, especially those principled enough to hold a president accountable, such as by withholding confirmation of bad nominees.

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