Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley says we can be grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court in Greece v. Galloway upheld freedom of speech and religion by affirming the right of a town council to hear unrestricted prayer by local clergy.
“Kudos to groups like the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Becket Fund for their court briefs and advocacy,” he says. “Sadly, the court ruling was narrowly 5-4. And more religious groups should have actively spoken to the issue. Some actually filed briefs against the town council's allowing unrestricted prayers.”
As Tooley sees it, some desire to enthrone a rigid secularism as the state religion while suppressing all other views. In contrast, ordered liberty allows free expression for all. Religious freedom remains under attack, Tooley says, and all persons who cherish freedom of speech and religion should prepare for future battles.
At the time the First Amendment was adopted, Ferrara says the countries of Europe each maintained their own preferred "Establishment of Religion," which meant an official government religion enforced by laws requiring attendance at the official church, regular contributions to it, and other preferences in law for members of that church.
“These establishment policies all involved government coercion to force citizens to support the one favored church," Ferrara says. "Almost all of the American colonies had such establishments as well, with legal compulsion or coercion as their hallmark.
"These practices, and anything like them involving coercion in regard to religion, are what the framers meant to prohibit in adopting the Establishment Clause, for this is what an Establishment of Religion meant at the time. They did not mean, however, to prohibit any voluntary, public, religious speech or religious expression or symbolism, which do not involve any such coercion."
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