The six extremist justices on the Supreme Court furthered their coup over Congress, the White House, and the Constitution on Monday, and continued their hatchet job on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Trump-packed majority ruled that it was perfectly fine for a public school employee to make a display of his religious beliefs while on the job, and further, to exhort the students in his charge to participate in his public prayers. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Court sided 6-3 with a football coach who demanded the right to pray with his players after games at the 50-yard-line. There’s another wrecking ball to the wall separating church and state, after last week’s decision that public money should go to private religious schools in Carson v. Makin.
The majority, as it did in the anti-gun regulation and forced birth decisions, invoked a “reference to historical practices and understandings,” in determining that a very Christian display of religious belief on public school grounds during the coach’s working hours was absolutely fine. For one thing, they said, he “prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied.”
In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor brought receipts.
“The record reveals that Kennedy had a longstanding practice of conducting demonstrative prayers on the 50-yard line of the football field. Kennedy consistently invited others to join his prayers and for years led student-athletes in prayer at the same time and location. The Court ignores this history,” she writes after detailing Kennedy’s efforts to turn himself into a cause célèbre and create a media circus for the school and for himself.
“The Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause are equally integral in protecting religious freedom in our society, Sotomayor continued. “The first serves as ‘a promise from our government,’ while the second erects a ’backstop that disables our government from breaking it’ and ‘start[ing] us down the path to the past, when [the right to free exercise] was routinely abridged.’”
Today, the Court once again weakens the backstop. It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all. Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection. In doing so, the Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance. As much as the Court protests otherwise, today’s decision is no victory for religious liberty.
It is not a victory for religious liberty—it's a victory for white evangelicals who have been waging their phony war on the war on Christmas. The coach, Joe Kennedy, purposefully set out to become a public spectacle, get on Fox News (which he did, repeatedly), get in with the deep-pocketed far right, and be their tool in order to get to here: an attack on the foundations of this nation and the furtherance of extremist white evangelical Christian religious.
Also, the further erosion of public secular education. Taxpayer money going to teach children about other cultures, other religions, history, and science (especially science) cannot be tolerated. An educated populace is one that is equipped to fight back. The ruling minority can’t have that.
In the meantime, this:
That’s just one newly Supreme Court-approved way to fight back.
Another is to end the rule of the minority—yes, end the Jim Crow filibuster in the Senate and take on the Supreme Court with reforms with teeth and by expanding it. Yes, Democrats have to win more seats in the Senate to do those things. So what are they waiting for?
They need to use the advantage they’ve just gained in base enthusiasm and build on it to start reaching beyond traditional Democratic voters. They need to show the majority of Americans who are opposed to everything this Court has done a fight plan for post-November.
Joe Sudbay returns to geek out with Kerry Eleveld and Cara Zelaya on the Democratic Party must do, what they are doing, and what they aren’t doing on Daily Kos' The Brief podcast
Sign now: Impeach Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh for lying under oath.