Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Legal Question

Albeit, a rhetorical one.

Here is the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note the first five words specifically.

Here is the most recent story regarding outrage over an alleged violation of the First Amendment. This particular example is a high school principal mentioning God in some comments at a graduation in Missouri.

“So while it would not be politically correct for us to have an official prayer this evening, I would like for us to have a moment of silence in honor of tonight’s graduates,” Lowery told students. “Thank you. And just in case you’re interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers and for this community.”

"If you were "offended" by this..I'd have to ask you HOW you could be offended by someone praying for nothing but wonderful things for this student!" wrote one commenter. "He wasn't asking anyone to join a church, a religion or to leave one...he simply asked that they would be protected and blessed."

Here is one such offended reaction:

But dozens of others commenting on the video blasted Lowery, as did Dave Muscato, a spokesman for American Atheists. “I find this extremely objectionable,” Muscato said. “I think it’s clear that Kevin Lowery violated the spirit of the First Amendment separations of religion and government. This was an underhanded and dishonorable way for him to forcibly inject his personal religious views onto his students and the others present and into his role as a government official.”

Returning to what the actual amendment says, can anyone find anywhere in this process where CONGRESS MADE A LAW? For those who don't recall, this is how Congress makes a law:

Not sure about you, but I didn't see anything in the graduation ceremony that included the passage of bicameral legislation, much less signature by the president.

This is illustrative for anyone who wonders how stuff at the judiciary really works. It's political just like everything else. You can web search your way into seeing how the First Amendment has evolved over the years, but the one thing that is consistent is that those first critical five words are utterly ignored.

So if Mr. Moscato wants to talk about violating the spirit of the amendment, maybe he should take a step back and reflect on how his (and the Supreme Court's) entire perspective relies on violating the actual text.

And for those wondering, I'm a recovering attorney, and yes, I did handle a couple of establishment and free exercise cases.

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