Will On S.Court Prayer Case

Yesterday, I called attention to E.J. Dionne's wonderful commentary on the Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. George Will also commented on the piece and, unlike Dionne, he agreed with the majority opinion. But, Will seems not to grasp the key point that Justice Kagan and Dionne made, namely, the majority is not respecting religion but demeaning it. Will writes: "The majority held that ceremonial prayer - an encouragement to gravity and sobriety - is not harmful to the plaintiffs, who felt somehow coerced when present at public prayers, and who said such prayers are necessarily divisive." I agree with Will that a bit more neighborliness and a lot less litigiousness would go a long way in our society, but the purpose of prayer is to thank, or bless, or request assistance the Godhead, not to encourage gravity or sobriety. This is the soft underbelly of the defenders of religion in the public square: To pass constitutional muster, they imply that religion is "ceremonial" or "traditional" or something similar. The counter to these claims was captured in Flannery O'Connor's famous rebuttal to a dinner party conversation that was fixated on the symbolism of the Eucharist: "Well, if it's just a symbol, then to Hell with it."  

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