. . . Wednesday March 2, 2005

Drawing the Line Without a Pencil

Here are a few outtakes from today’s Supreme Court hearing during which the justices considered the displaying of the ten commandments on government property:

Would it be permissible for the Texas Legislature to post the Ten Commandments, not in an outdoor park, but in the halls of the Capitol, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked Erwin Chemerinsky, who was representing the Austin man who challenged the Texas display.

No, replied Mr. Chemerinsky, a professor at Duke University Law School, because that would be a sign of government endorsement of religion.

But the Supreme Court itself has upheld the practice of beginning a legislative session with a prayer, Justice O’Connor pointed out.

“It can’t be that just because a prayer is permissible, everything becomes permissible,” Mr. Chemerinsky replied, adding that a Legislature could not mount a large Latin cross on the top of a state Capitol.

“It’s so hard to draw the line!” Justice O’Connor exclaimed.

It’s actually easy to draw the line. The problem is that the vast majority of people do not want that line to be drawn. The Supreme Court should be the last place in America to open their proceedings with a prayer. The second to the last place should be Washington D.C. during the swearing in a new president (where we’ve taken to referring not just to “some” higher being but to JC himself). Prayer also has no place at the start, middle or end of a legislative session. It also doesn’t belong in an NFL endzone!

Prayer doesn’t belong in any of these places. But it is in all of them and more. If I were in charge, the ten commandments would be out of the courthouse, but that would just be the first step. If you are willing to argue that prayer belongs at the start of a legislative session, I’m not sure you can also argue that the ten commandments don’t belong in a courthouse.

It’s time to draw a line in the granite once and for all. But don’t get your hopes up.

Concentration is important!