Prayers at graduation ceremonies are in the news again as a federal judge has ruled that the First Amendment’s “non-establishment” clause forbids even student-initiated supplications.
The federal judge’s last sentence of the article linked above [“We don’t put the Constitution to a vote,”] illustrates an important distinction between pure democracy and the rule of law under a constitutional republic. But it neglects the crucial point that, as ACLU co-founder Justice Felix Frankfurter once acknowledged,
“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution and not what we [the justices] have said about it.” -Felix Frankfurter, concurring in Graves v. New York, 306 US 466, 491-2 (1939)
We may take comfort from the assurance of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the “separation of church and state” metaphor that has so clouded First Amendment jurisprudence: “Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally.”
It was Justice Byron White who recently noted that “The Court is most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law [sic] having little or no recognizable roots in the language or design of the Constitution.”
Small wonder that recent polling suggests that 77% of Americans believe our courts have gone too far in restricting free exercise of religion; 76% support public displays of Ten Commandments; and 90% support keeping “one nation under God” in our Pledge.
Founder and Patriot John Adams once remarked to Governor Dickinson that “We Americans are not to be conjured out of our senses by the words ‘British Empire’ as we know that Britain is a constitutional monarchy.”
Similarly, we Americans today are not to be “conjured out of our senses” by the words “separation of church and state.” Let’s continue to defend our Constitution’s text and heritage as we stand for “separation of atheism and state.”
As George Orwell once observed, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” AJA’s point in calling attention to America’s “Organic Laws” is to espouse the obvious reality contained in our Declaration of Independence – that is, that law comes from God and the self-evident reality of objective truth. In other words, the inscription on America’s coins is the “National Motto” and not the “National Anachronism” [i.e., “out-of-date application or wrong-period attribution of an event”]
And let’s remember that it was judges’ “perversion of judgment” rather than “walking in God’s ways” that was the catalyst directly resulting in the leaders of Israel abandonment of self-government under God to ask for a king (i.e. authoritarianism) in 1 Samuel 8:3+.
Otherwise, we abandon our children to an “Orwellian” future:
“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently. “How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.” “Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” -George Orwell, 1984
Justice Clarence Thomas deserves commendation for suggesting that “a more fundamental rethinking of…Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order.” My expectation is that those prayer-wishful students in Indiana would say, “Amen to that!”