Saving Grace in Greece: SCOTUS Sides with Prayer
Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling wasn't just an answer on prayer -- it was an answer to prayer! In what experts are calling one of the biggest religious liberty wins in the last half-century, the Court gave its blessing to an American tradition more than 200 years old: legislative prayer. In cities across America, secular activists have come to legal blows with dozens of local governments over the freedom to open meetings with a prayer recognizing the Author of our liberty.
And while they may have scared the prayers out of some city councils, the town of Greece, New York refused to be one of them. After a lengthy tug-of-war, the case finally landed at the steps of the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled 5-4 to continue a practice as old as the nation itself. For as long as anyone can remember, Greece had allowed any citizen of any religion (or lack thereof) to kick off the meetings with prayer. And while the policy was wholly inclusive, Christian prayers were the most popular. Despite the town's efforts to recruit other faith groups, only four of the 127 invocations were offered by non-Christians.
A local resident, Susan Galloway, decided the tradition was offensive and petitioned the Board to stop praying altogether. The town refused, telling Galloway that if she objected, she was free to wait in the hallway until the invocation was over. Instead, Galloway waited in the office of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which agreed to sue the city all the way to the Supreme Court. In the lower court, judges actually sided with Galloway, ruling that "...such a 'steady drumbeat' of Christian invocations violates the Constitution's prohibition against government endorsement of religion."
But that "steady drumbeat" was no fault of the town's, which encouraged a Jewish man, a Wiccan priestess, and even a local Baha'i chairman to join in the tradition. Apparently some courts seem to think that Christians should be punished because other faiths don't take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. Even President Obama saw the ridiculousness in that and stunned both sides of the debate by filing his own brief -- in defense of prayer. FRC had submitted its own amicus brief in the case on behalf of 49 members of Congress, essentially making the point that if the Second Circuit Court were correct, then Congress would have been violating the Constitution for more than two centuries.
With the chisel of political correctness slowly chipping away at the First Amendment, this is a monumental victory for every American standing for the inclusion of faith -- not just by means of legislative prayers, but for all religious speech and expression. With this ruling, the justices deal a huge blow to the forces of political correctness, who continue to demand that we check our faith at the entrance to the public square.
Fortunately, this Court recognizes just how misguided their intolerance is. As Justice Anthony Kennedy explains, the tradition of public prayer exists to unite, not divide. "The decision concluded that legislative prayer, while religious in nature, has long been understood as compatible with the Establishment Clause. As practiced by Congress since the framing of the Constitution, legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society."
One look at the headlines and we can all agree: if there's one thing this country could use more of, it's prayer!
Jordan Puts the Ball in House's Court
If you're looking for job security under this administration, become a special investigator. After Fast and Furious, the NSA, Libya, and the IRS, there's no shortage of work for government probes. This administration is so knee-deep in scandal that Congress is having a difficult time keeping its oversight efforts straight. As if the call for select committee on Benghazi weren't damaging enough, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) announced a second vote -- this one for a special counsel on the IRS's conservative targeting.
With the investigation at a standstill and zero cooperation from the administration, Congressman Jordan is asking the House to take matters into its own hands -- and out of the current Justice attorney's (and major Obama donor) in charge. "We need this Special Counsel to help us get to the truth because the so-called investigation by the Justice Department has been a joke," Jordan argued Friday. "The current investigation has no credibility because it is being headed by a maxed out donor who is firmly invested in the President's success. The Attorney General says he won't share any information with Congress about the investigation but looked the other way when information was leaked to the media signaling that no one would face criminal charges. This resolution calls for a real investigation by an unbiased investigator to get the truth and hold those responsible for this illegal targeting accountable for their actions."
While the Justice Department continues doing the White House's bidding in covering up the IRS's corruption, the House is also holding a vote of contempt for the one person making a special investigation necessary: Lois Lerner. Despite being implicated by her own emails, the infamous head of the IRS's tax-exempt division still refuses to testify on her record of systematically denying conservative applications for nonprofit status. Americans deserve to know if their own government is working against them. And if the President won't show some sincerity on the issue, Congress must. Our deepest thanks to members like Jim Jordan, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Charles Boustany (R-La.) for trying to get to the bottom of the IRS's conspiracy.
From Stem to Starnes...
If you're a regular reader of the Update, then you're very familiar with our good friend Todd Starnes. On the Fox News team, Todd is probably the voice values voters know best. Reporting from the front lines of the culture war, Todd covers everything from marriage to religious liberty. In his new book, God Less America -- just released today -- Todd draws on some of the most compelling stories to show the Left's vicious attack on conservatism, patriotism, and constitutionalism. As Todd says, this storm isn't about Duck Dynasty or Chick-fil-A sandwiches. "It's about religious liberty. It's about free speech. It's about the future of our nation." Don't miss Todd's perfect blend of laugh-out-loud funny and frank conservative commentary. Click over to the website, GodLessAmericaTheBook.com, to order your copy -- and mark your calendars for a book tour stop near you!
** God's design for marriage -- the intact, nuclear family rooted in the marriage of a man and a woman -- is irreplaceable. That's the message of a unique documentary which will be screened for one night only this Tuesday, May 6 at over 700 theatres nationwide. Irreplaceable, a film produced by Focus on the Family, seeks to answer the questions, "What is family?" and "Does family still matter in today's society?" The narrative involves New Zealander Tim Sisarich (from Focus on the Family New Zealand) bidding goodbye to his own family to jet around the world in search of answers to these questions. The 90-minute film features enough expert interviews and compelling data to make it educational, but enough fast cuts and interesting visuals -- everything from old home movies to person-on-the-street interviews to clips of Elvis Presley and Hugh Hefner -- to keep it entertaining and engaging. Beginning with a look at the sexual revolution, the film warns that when we devalue sex, we devalue marriage, in turn devaluing parenthood and children. You can find more information -- and a theatre near you -- at IrreplaceableTheMovie.com.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.