Arguably the Biggest Religious Liberty Case in Decades?

author: kprice 1:36 pm EST May 20, 2013
By the Family Research Council, Special for US Daily Review. Family Research Council (FRC) commends the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision today granting review in Town of Greece v. Galloway. If the Court decides in favor of the town of Greece, the decision could become the most significant religious liberty victory in half a century. Director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty,Ken Klukowski J.D.submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 49 Members of Congress supporting the Alliance Defending Freedom's petition in this case addressing public prayer before town meetings. "It is likely that the town of Greece will prevail before the U.S. Supreme Court in this case, and a victory for them will be a victory for all Americans of faith and for the Constitution itself," said Klukowski. "Given that the Court has looked approvingly to legislative prayer dating to the Founding, it is likely that the Court will not only affirm prayer but significantly strengthen the religious liberty rights of Americans in public life and the public square." In Galloway, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the use of public prayer before town meetings in the town of Greece was a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The Second Circuit court ruled this despite the town's highly inclusive policy that allowed even practicing Wiccans and atheists to offer civic prayers. Klukowski, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at FRC, authored the amicus brief on behalf of the Members of Congress. In the brief, he compared prayer before town meetings to the legislative prayers before the U.S. House of Representatives. To read the House Member's amicus brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, and to see a list of the Members who signed it, click herehttp://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF13A26.pdf

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  • I would also add regarding Klukowski’s statement “Given that the Court has looked approvingly to legislative prayer dating to the Founding, it is likely that the Court will not only affirm prayer but significantly strengthen the religious liberty rights of Americans in public life and the public square.” While I agree with a decision to not ‘interfere’ into town/State politics and social issues in this case, I would suggest to still disagree with the default of power to the federal government and the Supreme Court over state/municipality issues that belong within the states ‘non delegated’ powers.

    If one studies the history of the Bill of Rights they will find that it originally applied only to the ‘General Government’ (Federal) to draw even more direct prevention of the abuse of natural law rights which was a concern to Virginia and Kentucky as well as the two hold out states/colonies of Rhode Island and North Carolina.

    Even as late as 1830 in the 1925 case Baltimore v Barron the Federal court decided through ‘Due Process’ that the Bill of Rights did not apply to restraining Federal power only but could be applied across to the states as well. This lead to future decisions that would centralize all rights in Washington.

    It was understood early on that the Bill of Rights, like the Constitution, specifically addressed federal power and not the States. Even up until 1833 in Barron v. Baltimore, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that the Bill of Rights provided “security against the apprehended encroachments of the general government—not against those of local governments.” But unfortunately that all changed with a Civil War, an Amendment and new courts. In 1925 in Gitlow v. New York, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment allowed that the Bill of Rights applied to the states as well. What the founding era generation feared was starting to unfold, as America headed toward a centralized Democracy, monolithic, fragile and impervious to competition or change.

    Where Proverbs 1.14 warns against ‘casting your lots (rights) into one purse.’, Madison warned against it as well in Federalist Papers #10 as Special Interest (Factions) should be left to the lower rungs of government and private discourse to prevent ‘national contagion’ even when the goals are good.

    Just as in a national sporting event, your team might win this game only to lose many others going forward. When a state or community constructs a religion, healthcare system or anything else that you might believe infringes on your liberty, you have the ability to flee it. But as the framers understood when it becomes nationalized the potential contagion is uncontrollable.

    In a Republic that diffuses power throughout lower rungs of government and private property rights is more likely to be stable, robust and while fallible, more responsive to the freedoms of their citizens and open to correction.

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