By Contributor on May 06, 2014

This week’s Supreme Court decision allowing some sectarian prayer at city council meetings is a deeply disappointing betrayal of America’s honored progressive values. Once again, the lopsided conservative majority proudly announced that it is on the wrong side of history.

In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the four staunchly non-progressive justices huddled together in what social scientists call “in group bias.” They patronizingly viewed us “out group” atheists, agnostics, Jews and other non-Christians as marginalized citizens.

One of the plaintiffs in the Greece case is Linda Stephens, a nonbeliever and Life Member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who did not appreciate having to endure proselytizing prayers.

We were really hoping Justice Kennedy, who has a long history of resisting governmental coercion, would be able to acknowledge the inherent inequality and divisiveness that actually occur when the government sanctions religious exercises at public meetings.

 In her scathing dissent, Justice Kagan clearly spotted the problem with the majority’s decision: “When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.”

However, Kennedy, no longer a “swing vote,” caved in to the status quo doctrine that in order for government to function properly, the meetings must be “solemnized” with a “gravity” that is “ceremonial.”

Referring to an imagined history—a history that Justice Kagan challenged in her dissent—Justice Kennedy invoked “values long part of the nation’s heritage.”

But doesn’t he see that by equating God with gravity, he has placed his personal theistic views above those of us who equate God with levity?

And does he truly think law is determined by history?

Is “heritage” a club to be widely wielded against the “out group”?

For shame!

So what do we do?

We can fight back.

Before these bad laws are eventually overturned by a more enlightened future Supreme Court, we seculars and progressives can use the same opportunity given to Christian clergy: We can ask for our own equal-time free-speech chance to give freethinking and nonreligious invocations before those very same city council meetings.

According to Kennedy’s decision, all Americans, not just Christians, have the right to address their secular government.

To that end, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has announced a “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” contest.

Ask your city to allow you to give an “atheist invocation” (or agnostic, secular, freethought, nonreligious invocation). Videotape the invocation and submit it to FFRF.

For details, click here.

In America, we are free to disagree with one another on religious matters. We are not free to ask our government to settle the argument.

------

By Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation author of “Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists”

 

 

 

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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