Jewish World Review July 18, 2000 / 15 Tamuz, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- TO THE EXTENT any Establishment Clause principles can be discerned from the Supreme Court's rulings on the matter, the court's position seems to be that invocations of the G-word can be permitted only around responsible adults who couldn't possibly swallow that religious hocus-pocus.
Congress can begin sessions with a prayer, Congress can have a paid man of the cloth on its payroll, and the nation's coins may proclaim "In G-d We Trust." Even the Supreme Court can still begin sessions with "G-d bless this court" -- since that has clearly had no effect, anyway. But all religious references must be kept away from impressionable children!
In its latest term, the court advanced the cause of stamping out G-d in public venues inhabited by children in a case called Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe. It now turns out that the Constitution requires that high school students be prohibited from mentioning G-d in speeches at football games.
The court's most recent prior ruling on prayer in school came in a 1992 case called Lee vs. Weisman. Apparently fearing that Rhode Island was on the cusp of establishing Reformed Judaism as the state religion, the court held that a Providence school had violated the Establishment Clause by allowing a reformed rabbi to give the invocation at a high school graduation ceremony.
The point on which the court relied most heavily in Lee was the enormous gravity of a high school graduation. Citing "(r)esearch in psychology," the court found that it would be nearly impossible for a student to avoid the graduation ceremony. Indeed, the Lee court droned on at some length about the psychological importance of high school graduation ceremonies.
"(I)n our society and in our culture, high school graduation is one of life's most significant occasions. ... (I)t is apparent that a student is not free to absent herself from the graduation exercise in any real sense of the term 'voluntary,' for absence would require forfeiture of those intangible benefits which have motivated the student through youth and all her high school years."
Obviously these guys are a lot further away from their high school years than we like to remember. Getting into a good college, obtaining a job or -- I don't know -- learning something are other possible "intangible benefits ... motivat(ing) the student through youth all her high school years." But a stupid little graduation ceremony? Senior prom is more significant.
In any event, that was where the court stood on prayer near a school until its latest ruling on the potentiality of prayer at a high school football game. In deciding the Sante Fe case, those great avatars of "stare decisis" when it comes to abortion promptly dumped the legal principles they had enunciated in Lee just eight years earlier. The court held that a wholly student-initiated speech at a football game constitutes an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion, too. (There was an imminent danger that the speech might spin out of control into a prayer.)
It seems the court was kidding in Lee when it banned religious references only from those precious high school events with "intangible benefits which have motivated the student through youth and all her high school years." Now the court has decided that high school football games have to be G-word-free zones, too. As long as this court sits, prayer will never corrupt the ears of a cheerleader.
Most sinister was the fact that the pregame student speech was supposed to "solemnize the event." As Justice Stevens explained, the "requirements that the message 'promote good citizenship' and 'establish the appropriate environment for competition'" suggested that "a solemn, yet nonreligious, message, such as commentary on United States foreign policy, would be prohibited." Consequently, the court found, the school policy practically required the designated student to speak in tongues.
If it constitutes an "establishment" of religion for cheerleaders to overhear a fellow student voluntarily mentioning G-d over a bullhorn at a football game, one is left wondering what kind of religious expression is permitted at public schools? As luck would have it, the court answered that in another decision announced the same day.
The court let stand a lower court ruling that struck down a public school policy requiring that students studying the theory of evolution be encouraged to "exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion." Do not engage in critical thinking when contemplating the theory of evolution! Do not consider alternatives! Do not view the theory of evolution as something about which you can form your own opinion!
You must believe in the state's
JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. You may visit the Ann Coulter Fan Club by clicking here.
07/14/00: Reform it back