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People began the prayer session at 10 a.m. by chanting "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."
January 5, 2006 9:52 AM   Subscribe

People began the prayer session at 10 a.m. by chanting "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." A judge's ruling barred the Indiana House of Representatives from invoking the name of Jesus or any other specific deity in official prayers. That didn't prevent the lawmakers for holding their own prayer, nor did it keep about 30 people from gathering in the Statehouse rotunda this morning to pray. In fact, the ruling motivated them.
posted by mountainmambo (97 comments total)

 
Maybe if they chant it long enough, he'll show up.
posted by NationalKato at 9:53 AM on January 5, 2006


He actually showed up, looked around and said, "would you people shut up, I'm trying to get some sleep!"
posted by Outlawyr at 9:58 AM on January 5, 2006


"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

- Some liberal
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2006


Cookiebastard wins.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2006


Jesus please come and save us from these people.
posted by birdherder at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2006


Book of Matthew 5-8 KJV:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
posted by Skwirl at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2006


Cookiebastard beat me to it... But I like the part about vain repetition, too.
posted by Skwirl at 10:03 AM on January 5, 2006


Skwirl gets bonus points for the vain repetition quote. NIV uses the word "pagans" where KJV uses the word "heathens".
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2006


American Christian Fundamentalists are the new idolators... Catholics, you are now off the hook.

Sorry, just wanted to channel a little Calvin there.
posted by psmealey at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2006


"Republican and Democratic representatives"

... can anyone explain that to me? I thought this stuff was limited to the nuttier right wing fundies? now even the US """"left"""" is doing it?

what happened to the War on Christmas?
posted by funambulist at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2006


In Indiana there is no real division between left and right... its just different shades of 'right.'
posted by mountainmambo at 10:12 AM on January 5, 2006


That's right. Let's mock people for protesting a law they think violates their rights.

Stupid protesters! They should stop protesting because we disagree with their cause! Idiots! Oh, wait. Blast.

For the record, I strongly disagree with the way these people were protesting, and I generally disagree with their political position. But how dumb is it to criticize people for exercising their right to peacably protest a law they disagree with?

When you outlaw prayer, only outlaws will pray, and so forth.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2006


Stupid protesters! They should stop protesting because we disagree with their cause! Idiots! Oh, wait. Blast.

I think the point is that if they actually practiced the religion they claim to adhere to, there'd be no need to protest in the first place.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2006


For the record, I strongly disagree with the way these people were protesting, and I generally disagree with their political position. But how dumb is it to criticize people for exercising their right to peacably protest a law they disagree with?

For the record, I don't disagree with their right to protest, I just think the manner in which it was done was (ironically) blasphemous.
posted by psmealey at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2006


No one was outlawing prayer. No one said they should not protest. A couple of us did point out that the protest seemed to be done in a way that the person whose name was invoked might not have approved of.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2006


I strongly disagree with the way these people were protesting, and I generally disagree with their political position. But how dumb is it to criticize people for exercising their right to peacably protest a law they disagree with?

So you disagree with their position and the way they chose to exhibit it but think we don't have the right to criticize? Huh? This is a web forum, it's not like we all drove to Indiana and started heckling them.

And what's "mocking" about citing relevant scripture that reveals these people may in fact be idiots?
posted by jalexei at 10:22 AM on January 5, 2006


I just think the manner in which it was done was (ironically) blasphemous.

You think it was blasphemous, or you think that the protesters should believe it is was blasphemous given your interpretation of the scripture that they profess to follow?

Clearly they don't believe they were being blasphemous, so their actions do not contradict their own beliefs. I, personally, do think their actions were blasphemous, but I also think that publicly criticizing someone's actions in the political arena because they are incongruent with my own religious beliefs would be a little lame.

It just sounds like this thread is saying basically "these people are stupid for doing something that they believe in, because I think they shouldn't believe in doing that, given my interpretation of their scripture."

And on preview, jalexei: I think that we have the right to do a great many things, including mocking people, but that doesn't mean we should. And calling people idiots because their interpretation of their own scripture is inconsistent with your interpretation of their scripture isn't very nice.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:28 AM on January 5, 2006


As usual, the Family Research Council is right on top of this:

the Indiana House of Representatives now joins Saudi Arabia as one more place where Jesus's name cannot be honored in an official ceremony.
posted by Otis at 10:28 AM on January 5, 2006


"Let's mock people for protesting a law they think violates their rights."

They can protest all they want. I'm mocking them because they are idiots.
posted by 2sheets at 10:29 AM on January 5, 2006


Those wacky activist judges are at it again, clearly!
posted by wakko at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2006


Percentage of Americans who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus: 83

Percentage of Americans who believe in evolution: 28
posted by gottabefunky at 10:34 AM on January 5, 2006


And calling people idiots because their interpretation of their own scripture is inconsistent with your interpretation of their scripture isn't very nice.

Wait, 'their scripture?' I'm not even Christian and I read Matthew 5:8 and can tell pretty much what's being said. Unless you think that scripture is supposed to be interpreted in a multitude of ways, dependent on one's own personal views, in which case I'm going to start coveting big time, baby!
posted by NationalKato at 10:37 AM on January 5, 2006


And on preview, jalexei: I think that we have the right to do a great many things, including mocking people, but that doesn't mean we should.

I (non-snarkily) applaud your efforts toward civility, but I'll continue to mock as I see fit. I make no claims of any sort of higher insight, secret wisdom or general superiority, just a pleasure in mocking.

And calling people idiots because their interpretation of their own scripture is inconsistent with your interpretation of their scripture isn't very nice.

Their "own" scripture happens to be mine as well, and I see little room for a dramatically different interpretation.
posted by jalexei at 10:39 AM on January 5, 2006


NationalKato: Your handle rules, and you are automatically the king of Metafilter by sheer UO association.

But, people see the meaning that they see when they read scripture or anything else. It's not about picking the interpretation that happens to suit your particular agenda, it's about interpreting it as you think is correct. Everyone, by definition, thinks that their own interpretation is the correct one. That's why you think you can tell pretty much what's being said, and so do they.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2006


Sallye Burton, 67, Bloomington, helped organize the public prayer session this morning in the rotunda. She's the Indiana coordinator for the U.S. Strategic Prayer Network.

Formerly know as the United States Spiritual Warfare Network. Yikes.
posted by JeffK at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2006


"...calling people idiots because their interpretation of their own scripture is inconsistent with your interpretation of their scripture isn't very nice."

- Yes, but I came here for an argument!!
- OH! Oh! I'm sorry! This is abuse!
posted by adamrice at 10:48 AM on January 5, 2006


Actually, Jek, if you're a fundamentalist, there is no "interpretation" allowed. Everything is what it looks like it says it is, and unless you want to argue about whether I perceive the color green the same as you, there's only one reading.
posted by adamrice at 10:50 AM on January 5, 2006


She's the Indiana coordinator for the U.S. Strategic Prayer Network.
Ah, so that means she practices strategery, just like our benighted leader. I say we burn 'em at the stake. Doesn't their main rule say to "do unto others as others have done unto you?"

(Yes, I know that's the so-called brass rule, and not the golden rule. But I have yet to meet a dead-man-on-a-stick-cultist who didn't practice the brass rule and claim they were practicing the golden rule.)
posted by nlindstrom at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2006


Anyone dumb enough to interpret the Bible literally ought to be mocked.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2006


The problem is a severe lack of critical thinking. These prayer mongers are like a down syndrome girl, tied to a bed, gang raped.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2006


I'm really, really curious if JekPorkins can come up with an alternative interpretation of Matthew 5:8 in which these peoples' actions are completely congruous with Christ's words, instead of being in complete opposition to them.

Normally I agree that scriptural interpretation is a slippery slope of personal bias but come on, that passage is so explicit you couldn't squeeze a Virgin Mary pussy hair through it. But if you'd like your "if you wanna be you be you" argument to hold you should probably try.
posted by baphomet at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2006


jekporkins: one can attach a personal interpretation to anything at any time and see their own interpreation as the only correct one, but the text remains the same (hence the saying scripta manent, verba volant).

So when one does an interpretation of a text, he should be asked how he reads every single word and what meaning does he give to the sentece as a whole and to each and every word.

Then by checking if the interpretation of similar sentece or words change over time, one can accuse them of flip flopping and changing their mind and being inconsistent and unreliable of being satanic or whatever.

On a tangent :
I bet you a beer the above mentioned "born again prayers" praying like their lifes depended on it know shit about what they're saying..some people in public relation is feeding them with clues. It's most likely image and presentation for the masses.Be certain they're trying to get some moral high ground for some scam...mhmh fastening and repeting for all their errors, apologizing and then repeating same old same old bullshit ?
posted by elpapacito at 11:05 AM on January 5, 2006


can come up with an alternative interpretation of Matthew 5:8 in which these peoples' actions are completely congruous with Christ's words, instead of being in complete opposition to them.

I think I can, actually. Jesus said what he said because he dissaproves of people using prayer as a means of showing off, of convincing people that you are better than them. It is possible that these people were praying in public as a means of public protest, rather than as a statement of their piety. Note that I'm not judging their actions one way or another, but you did ask for an interpretation.
posted by unreason at 11:05 AM on January 5, 2006


Jesus H. Christ.
posted by three blind mice at 11:09 AM on January 5, 2006


Sorry but what's it got to do with blasphemy or interpretations of faithfulness to Jesus' message or whatever - isn't it a simple cut and dry matter of separation of church and state, "these people" being not ordinary people but political representatives and holding their prayer not in their homes or church club or even in the street, but in a parliamentary setting?
posted by funambulist at 11:11 AM on January 5, 2006


Dennis: Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
King Arthur: Bloody peasant!
Dennis: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, Didn't you?
posted by jellicle at 11:13 AM on January 5, 2006


Actually, Jek, if you're a fundamentalist, there is no "interpretation" allowed.

The mistake here is presuming the phrase "biblical literalism" is in fact an English phrase. Perhaps it's better to treat it as a false cognate in an unknown language, loosely translating to "belief according to the selective interpretation of one of a variety of translations of the Bible, made by the preacher or other authority figure of one's particular congregation or an official in one's supercongregational political body."

You will never win an argument with a fundamentalist of any religion by reading said religion's holy literature. Period. You've read it. They haven't, at least not by your definition of "read". It is in fact logically impossible to believe literally in its entirety any existing Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious text owing to a number of internal self-contradictions. Pointing this fact out wins you no points, because anyone capable of detachment from dogma long enough to realize this won't be on the other side of the argument.

Anyone using the term "literal" with respect to any religious text is using said book as a sideshow prop alone, and any argument made while doing so might as well be made while waving around a copy of Schneier's Applied Crypography.

/derail
posted by Vetinari at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2006


I agree with the protest. If Mr. J-stuff is the name they want to utter during prayer, then what's the big deal? After all, prayer is not for the bystanders, it's for the people doing it. Any civil servant who wants to pray to someone else can pipe up or pray to themselves.

If that's not practical, then that's why the ruling should instead of been banning prayer altogether from government session. Seperation, not compromise.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:22 AM on January 5, 2006


not ordinary people but political representatives and holding their prayer . . . in a parliamentary setting?

No, the people chanting were members of the public gathered in the rotunda.
posted by JekPorkins at 11:23 AM on January 5, 2006


"Jesus said what he said because he dissaproves of people using prayer as a means of showing off, of convincing people that you are better than them."

Well there's certainly none of that sort of behavior being exhibited by the current crop of God warriors. Nope, not at all.
posted by 2sheets at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2006


JepPorkins: huh? I didn't read wrong, did I? No I don't think I did: 'More than 50 House members gathered at the rear of the chamber today minutes before the opening of the session and held a prayer' etc.

A judge ruled etc.

Why would a judge rule it should be barred, if there was no basis for it being barred? He pulled that out of his anti-christmas hat?
posted by funambulist at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2006


Why would a judge rule it should be barred, if there was no basis for it being barred?

You're arguing that it must be correct because a judge said it? That's kind of silly, isn't it?
posted by unreason at 11:39 AM on January 5, 2006


I didn't read wrong, did I?

You didn't read enough:

"Sitting in blue chairs in the marble rotunda, people began the prayer session at 10 a.m. by chanting "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."
The group got louder as different church leaders stood behind a podium, their shouts of praise echoing throughout the Statehouse."

and

"A judge's ruling barred the Indiana House of Representatives from invoking the name of Jesus or any other specific deity in official prayers."

So the 50 lawmakers, who quietly met privately at the back of the chamber, did not violate the Judge's ruling. And the chanting folks were members of the public, in the rotunda.
posted by JekPorkins at 11:47 AM on January 5, 2006


Wait a minute, wait a minute !

1* 50 lawmakers
2* in a rotunda
3* praying and praising god

Come on, please come on !. Can you believe that, for a second ?

Where da fudge did they do all the praying in the past ? I believe in sudden conversion as Christ Finding as much as I believe chinese food at chinese restaurant isn't overcooked crap.
posted by elpapacito at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2006


Wait a minute, wait a minute !

No:

1. 50 lawmakers
2. In the back of the chamber
3. Praying, just like they had at the beginning of every session until then
4. Unofficially, since the judge said they couldn't pray in that way officially anymore
5. Meanwhile, in the rotunda -- a separate part of the building, members of the public chanted the J-word over and over in protest of the Judge's ruling that that word could no longer be used in the official prayer, even though the official prayer could continue without that word.

Where did they do all the praying in the past? In the chamber, from the podium. Except that in the past the official prayer was allowed to name names, whereas now it no longer can.

Or did I read wrong?
posted by JekPorkins at 12:09 PM on January 5, 2006


psmealey: but what would Hobbes have said?
posted by twsf at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2006


That's right. Let's mock people for protesting a law they think violates their rights.

More than an ordinary law...it's the Constitution.
posted by wolfey at 12:27 PM on January 5, 2006


JekPorkins sums it up from a legal standpoint:
- The court did not hold that the Representatives and public could not pray

- The court did not hold that they could not pray in the statehouse

- The court did not even hold that they couldn't stand behind the podium and publicly chant their prayer (though the rules of order might cover this)

All the court held was that a specific, named religious figure could not b named during the official prayer. Simple separation of church and state, as determined by the U.S. Constitution. Why is there even any debate about that?


the Indiana House of Representatives now joins Saudi Arabia as one more place where Jesus's name cannot be honored in an official ceremony
Along with the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate, the White House, the other 49 state capitals, every U.S. military academy, any public school, etc., etc.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2006


Except that in the past the official prayer was allowed to name names

Funny I would have expected people to be okay with not naming names right now.

Can somebody please tell me who is who in the sockpuppet world? Maybe a page on the metafilter wiki? I can't keep track anymore.
posted by srboisvert at 12:36 PM on January 5, 2006


Along with the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate, the White House, the other 49 state capitals, every U.S. military academy, any public school, etc., etc.

Well, actually, the U.S. House and Senate start each day with an opening prayer that quite often includes the J-Word, and that has held true regardless of which party was in power.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:38 PM on January 5, 2006


jekporkins : mmh nice comment. Actually I went back to double check my facts and found I was wrong, they're not born-again-whatevers

But, led by House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, they decided to forgo the 189-year tradition of invocations -- at least for now -- and opted instead to have a free-spirited prayer huddle in the back of the House chamber minutes before the opening gavel.

Nice and appreciable move, I guess that if other religious representatives of other religions choosed to do the same they would need some time and some scheduling would need to be done.

He also criticized Bosma for continually insisting in public that free speech is at stake when his lawyers conceded that was not the case before Hamilton.

Isn't it curious that praying in the house, something other people from other religions may find obscene , is considered as an obstruction to free speech BUT being forbidden to say grotesque words or talking about sexual activities on tv/radio isn't a restriction to free speech ?

Again I was wrong, they're not born-again-just-in-time religious people , they more probably are good old bigot hypocrites.
posted by elpapacito at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2006


Isn't it curious that praying in the house, something other people from other religions may find obscene , is considered as an obstruction to free speech BUT being forbidden to say grotesque words or talking about sexual activities on tv/radio isn't a restriction to free speech ?

As you may be aware, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that religious speech, along with political speech, is one of the most highly protected forms of speech under the 1st amendment. Meanwhile, obscenity is one kind of speech that is not granted such constitutional protection.

It's really not all that curious. It's well-established constitutional jurisprudence. Now, the psycho right does tend to take things way to far in terms of trying to ban borderline obscene speech, but there's really no question that religious speech gets far more constitutional protection than does obscenity.

And what of the free exercise clause? Is it not to be considered alongside the establishment clause?
posted by JekPorkins at 12:47 PM on January 5, 2006


Clearly they don't believe they were being blasphemous, so their actions do not contradict their own beliefs.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:28 AM PST on January 5


They don't believe they were being blasphemous because they haven't read the Bible. Usually they have some vague idea about how gays are really bad and capital gains tax cuts are good and that's about it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2006


Isn't it curious that praying in the house, something other people from other religions may find obscene , is considered as an obstruction to free speech BUT being forbidden to say grotesque words or talking about sexual activities on tv/radio isn't a restriction to free speech ?

The House of Representatives of the State of Indiana is a governmental institution, and is prevented by the US Constitution from endorsing a religon.

Radio stations are private institutions and can talk about religon, feces, or sex all they want, subject to the regulations of the FCC.

Talk about being willfully obtuse...
posted by bshort at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2006


You folk should try living here in Indiana for awhile. This incident is practically run-of-the-mill around here.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:08 PM on January 5, 2006


The House of Representatives of the State of Indiana is a governmental institution, and is prevented by the US Constitution from endorsing a religon.

True, but the House didn't officially endorse a religion. Some of its members merely chose to excercise their right of religion, they in no way gave it a governmental endorsement.
posted by unreason at 1:11 PM on January 5, 2006


This incident is practically run-of-the-mill around here.

Really? It's common for Indiana judges to make rulings that are more far-reaching and take a more expansive view of the establishment clause than any U.S. Supreme Court case has to date?

It's ok for the U.S. Senate chaplain to say "Jesus" in the official morning prayer, but Indiana is so progressive that the constitution just became more restrictive in Indiana than the rest of the nation.

So, it's really run-of-the-mill for Indiana to restrict religious activity that far outside the mainstream? Wow. I always thought Indiana was behind the times and was overly deferential to religion. And I thought this judge's decision was a pretty rare thing for that state, or any other.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:15 PM on January 5, 2006


unreason: of course I'm not saying that because a judge ruled so it must be True and Right, I was just guessing there has to be a law or set of laws to which the judge referred to, right? He can't have made up a new rule all by himself, that's all I meant.

Now I'm not American, I'm not familiar with the particulars of how elected political representatives engage in religious rites while inside the house of representatives, if it's ever been done or how or when, but I was under the impression you guys had a strict rule of church/state separation, in principle at least, based on the constitution and based on what was ruled in cases like that famous story of the ten commandments monument and prayers in schools and even the latest ruling of that judge on intelligent design etc. (sorry to be so sloppy, don't remember the names). Now I don't know the legal details but from the article it was my impression this ruling was in that same category of enforcing that separation.

I think I got it wrong on one thing though, I realise now after reading sixdiffrentways' comment. I thought the separation meant religion had no place at all in a setting like, in this case, the house of representatives, as a state/government institution.

Instead religious prayers are ok as long as they don't refer to any particular religion? how does that work?
posted by funambulist at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2006


Well, actually, the U.S. House and Senate start each day with an opening prayer that quite often includes the J-Word, and that has held true regardless of which party was in power.

Seriously? there, I had no idea of this...

How does it fit with that separation principle?

Please note I'm only curious, not outraged or anything, it's not my country anyway so even if I was outraged it wouldn't matter. The questions are actual questions because I just don't know how it works in practice. I assumed things and now I'm realising I assumed wrong but it makes less sense than I thought.
posted by funambulist at 1:30 PM on January 5, 2006


Sorry, funambulist, I didn't know you weren't familiar with American church & state stuff. Here it is in a nut shell (altough there is some controversy, of course):

There is no law against prayer in a public space, such as in a government building. There isn't a law against public officials praying. What is off limits is government officials doing anything that might be construed as an official endorsement of religion. That's why the 10 commandments thing got ruled out of bounds. Because it was an official government instution praising a religious tenet. These officals aren't really doing that, they are praying on a personal basis, not an official one. It's a fine line, and one that has been debated quite a bit. Officials praying is hardly new though; Congress has had a chaplain almost since its founding. The controversy basically is this question: where is the line drawn between individual religious practice, and actual endorsement of a particular faith by the government? That's basically what this fight is over, IMHO.
posted by unreason at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2006


Excellent summary, unreason.

I would add only that the church/state issue in the u.s. is complicated partially because it is based on two possibly contradictory clauses in the Constitution: The establishment clause, which basically prohibits the government from endorsing a religion (or religion generally), and the free exercise clause, which prohibits the government from doing anything that would keep people, including government employees and officials, from practicing their religion.

Currently, the establishment clause is dominant.
posted by JekPorkins at 1:37 PM on January 5, 2006


Incidentally, the actual rule in the Constitution is this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

As JekPorkins said, the two parts of this rule tend to push judicial opinion in different directions; the first part says that government may not be in favor of a particular religion, the second says that government may not prevent anyone, including government officials, from practicing a particular religion.
posted by unreason at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2006


What's the protest? They're doing exactly what the judge ordered, and exactly what Matthew 5:8 says not to do. It looks like they're supporting the secular nature of government.
posted by Happy Monkey at 1:44 PM on January 5, 2006


Jekpoksin As you may be aware, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that religious speech, along with political speech, is one of the most highly protected forms of speech under the 1st amendment

Nope I'm don't know much about the jurisprudence of Supreme Court on the subject and in general, but while my ignorance doesn't allow me to cite Supreme Court nor understand the reasoning behind their decisions I still can see an appeal to authority when I see one.

Certainly the Court isn't an average Joe when time comes to discuss difficult legal arguments and out to be considered as a relevant and legal source, YET the fact that there's consolidated jurisprudence on the subject taken ALONE is a worthless fact. "Just because the Court says so" isn't an argument that is going to buy me.

Let's take for granted that an absolute unrestricted freedom of speech would not allow the exercise of the abovesaid freedom because, in practice, I could yell on top of my lungs all the time "freedom of speech" and not let anybody hear your speech. Let's advance the idea that, so as long as no conflict happens, there isn't a strict necessity to limit speech just because we happen to know absolute freedom is disruptive. What if conflict arises ?

Evidently the activities of the House have started for many years with invocations, but what if other representatives are "offended" by certain invocations ? Why should, for instance, atheists respect such invocations and waste (from their point of view) time on them ? Why shound an Indu wish that Jesus Christ protects him ?

But let's leave the offended part out of the discussion: why should the House endorse all or some of the religious invocations ? That would be a clear violation of First Amendment. Clearly forbidding every religion, also the ones not yet invented, from expressing their invocations in the House wouldn't be a discriminatory limitation of freedom of religion.


It could as well be that, historically, expression of religious behavior in the House have been tolerated, but they're probably better left out of a place in which they could be misinterpreted as endorsment of some religion.

Additionally I guess House representatives do not represent ONLY their voters but also the voters in their district who happened to vote for the losing representative... what if there's some atheist or some religious people among them ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:52 PM on January 5, 2006


the second says that government may not prevent anyone, including government officials, from practicing a particular religion.

Luckily, there isn't any religion that requires government employees to lead everyone in prayer before legislating. But if there were, we might run into a religion that is incompatible with America.
posted by Happy Monkey at 1:54 PM on January 5, 2006


but what if other representatives are "offended" by certain invocations ?

Then that is unfortunate. You do not have the constitutional right to prevent people from offending you.

why should the House endorse all or some of the religious invocations

They're not endorsing it. Some members are merely choosing to participate in it. Look at it this way: Let's say that some members of Congress enjoy vanillla pudding. They tell the cafeteria to serve said pudding. Congress isn't endorsing the pudding. They aren't saying to America, "We, your elected officials, say that you should have pudding!", they are just saying that they personally want the pudding. Of course, it would be a different matter if the members of Congress passed a law endorsing vanilla pudding, or giving subsidies to vanilla pudding manufacturers.
posted by unreason at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2006


These officals aren't really doing that, they are praying on a personal basis, not an official one. It's a fine line, and one that has been debated quite a bit.

Ok, I get it now - I really had assumed the line had been drawn a lot more clearly.

Thank you for the explanation, unreason (and JekPorkins). Much appreciated. I was a little confused indeed.

Officials praying is hardly new though; Congress has had a chaplain almost since its founding. The controversy basically is this question: where is the line drawn between individual religious practice, and actual endorsement of a particular faith by the government? That's basically what this fight is over, IMHO.

That's why I was confused - to me, what politicians do in a parliament or house of representatives is by definition political, cos they're there in their roles as representatives, so I never considered they could be allowed religious expression as a personal freedom while they're in there, you know, as opposed to when they're off the shift and outside the house. But I guess if they weren't allowed any religious expression even inside, then it would be against the "no law prohobiting the free exercise thereof" clause - if I understand this correctly.

It definitely sounds complicated to juggle those two parts of that bit in the constitution, at least in settings like these.
posted by funambulist at 1:59 PM on January 5, 2006


elpapacito: You reject the Supreme Court as the difinitive authority on what the Constitution means, and then you present your own opinion as to what is a clear violation of the first amendment?

I realize this is another "appeal to authority," but see Marbury v. Madison. Supreme Court interpretation controls. Period.

"just because the court says so" is THE definitive argument where the constitution is concerned, frankly.
posted by JekPorkins at 2:04 PM on January 5, 2006


I’m going to go protest the13th amendment to the constitution by praying loudly to Jesus (so everyone can see how much holier I am than they are) because Leviticus 25: 44-46 says I can have slaves.

I expect not to be called an idiot or face resistance.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on January 5, 2006


They're not endorsing it. Some members are merely choosing to participate in it. Look at it this way: Let's say that some members of Congress enjoy vanillla pudding. They tell the cafeteria to serve said pudding. Congress isn't endorsing the pudding. They aren't saying to America, "We, your elected officials, say that you should have pudding!", they are just saying that they personally want the pudding. Of course, it would be a different matter if the members of Congress passed a law endorsing vanilla pudding, or giving subsidies to vanilla pudding manufacturers.

That's a truly stupid analogy.

We're not talking about pudding. We're talking about endorsement of a single religon.

The Constitution forbids government endorsement of a religon. It says nothing whatsoever about pudding.
posted by bshort at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2006


The distinction between the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause is that the former protects the expressive rights of private citizens, and the latter restricts the expressive rights of government institutions and agents.

It's that simple, really. All the wingnut appeals to the Free Exercise Clause in the context of school prayer and town hall displays are based on ignorance of this concept.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:18 PM on January 5, 2006


You will never win an argument with a fundamentalist of any religion by reading said religion's holy literature. Period. You've read it. They haven't, at least not by your definition of "read". It is in fact logically impossible to believe literally in its entirety any existing Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious text owing to a number of internal self-contradictions. Pointing this fact out wins you no points, because anyone capable of detachment from dogma long enough to realize this won't be on the other side of the argument.
This is the most concise and brilliantly stated summary of the whole problem of discussing religion with the religious. I could not have said it better myself if I spent an entire lifetime trying to do so. In fact, this is one of the best comments I have ever read here. Bravo!
posted by nlindstrom at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2006


All the wingnut appeals to the Free Exercise Clause in the context of school prayer and town hall displays are based on ignorance of this concept.

Quite true. The tricky part arises when public officials are acting, arguably, as private citizens (on the one hand) or where private citizens (non-government-employees) act as proxies for government officials, like where a student offers a prayer in school on behalf of the class (on the other hand).

Sure, it's unconstitutional for the principal to give an opening prayer at a school football game. But can the principal tell the students not to have a prayer? Can a member of a school club offer a prayer to open a club meeting? What if that student is on the student council?

The questions do get more complicated than whether the school can have an official prayer at the beginning of the day. And they get trickier than whether or not congress can say "Jesus" in a prayer.
posted by JekPorkins at 2:29 PM on January 5, 2006


Happy Monkey (and many others) writes "Matthew 5:8"

For what it's worth, Skwirl had a typo in the citation for these verses. It's Matthew 6:5-8.

That is all.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:47 PM on January 5, 2006


jekporking: I'm not "rejecting" SCOTUS as a definitive authority because I quite simply cannot, nor would I do if I could
quite simply because I have no reason to reject SCOSTUS. I took your advice and gave a look at Marbury v. Madison but as my
access to commented jurisprudence and to jurisprudence databases are limited, I gave a lame look on Wikipedia.

From which I learned that SCOTUS is the only court established by Constitution, that most of the powers of SCOTUS are given
by other articles of the Constitution. Then I learned that

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)[1], is a landmark case in United States law, the basis for the exercise of judicial review of Federal statutes by the U.S. Supreme Court as a constitutional power. The Court ruled that it had the power to declare void a statute which it considered repugnant to the Constitution.

and that

Chief Justice John Marshall, in Marbury, legally established the cornerstone of the power of the judiciary—and in particular, the Supreme Court— to overrule the actions of coequal branches of government and thus laid the basis for the current power of the Supreme Court.


So correct me if I'm wrong but SCOTUS gave itself power to declare laws unconstitutional. This power doesn't come from Constituion, but by a decision made my SCOTUS. Even if I agree with the idea that a last-resort Court is a practical necessity (as infinite judgments are not possible) and that a Court should specialize in controlling that laws are compatible with constitution..... it certainly LOOK like SCOTUS simply declared itself competent on Constitutional compatibility of laws.

Hell of a trick, if you ask me. But today I also learned that

The Supreme Court cannot directly enforce its rulings; instead, it relies on respect for the Constitution and for the law for adherence to its judgments. One notable instance of nonacquiescence came in 1832, when the state of Georgia ignored the Supreme Court's decision in Worcester v. Georgia.

So basically SCOTUS is a well respected, extremely competent authority but a moral authority ? That seems to be a good balance for an otherwise strong power of declaring laws unconstitutional. Yet if I considered the Constitution as the supreme paradigm to which law must conform , SCOSTUS can't rule anything on constituionality ? Am I missing something ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2006


elpapacito: Yes, Marbury was a heck of a trick for the court to play, and a huge powergrab. It was also a mighty long time ago, and it stands as probably the most well-established constitutional ruling in the history of the U.S.

SCOTUS is the final word on constitutional interpretation. If you think there's a constitutional right to an abortion, you should be glad SCOTUS grabbed that power and ruled that way in Roe v. Wade, because that right sure as heck isn't in the text of the Constitution.

As for the Court having no power to enforce its rulings, it has no less power to enforce judgments than any other court in the U.S. Like any other court, it can uphold your death sentence, but cannot be the one to pull the switch to kill you.

If the police and the rest of the executive started ignoring everything the court told them the law was, then the court would cease to have power, and the rule of law would be gone. For a good example of what that's like, read up on Serbia.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2006


Anyone else notice that lawmakers praying always look like they're taking a dump?

Even non-lawmakers

From this comedy goldmine: what evangelical Christianity looks like.

Christians are the new ravers.
posted by redteam at 3:26 PM on January 5, 2006


Here in Louisville we don't expect much brilliance from Hoosiers anyway: we've seen them drive.
posted by davy at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2006


Leviticus 25: 44-46 says I can have slaves.


Paul supports that, too. and he also really hated teh fags back when it was unfashionable to do so -- he calls them "arsenokoitai", ie "buttfuckers", literally.

translators are usually more polite, but the Greek is oh-so-clear.
posted by matteo at 3:36 PM on January 5, 2006


Hey redicam, somebody should tell them that if they squat instead of sit they won't have to strain. (But since we rent I have to squat over a regular toilet, dammit; it's not easy when one is too drunk to balance two feet off the floor.)

And matteo, c'mon, you're kidding: "arse" can't be an ancient Greek word. Not even first-century koine. (Paging languagehat!)
posted by davy at 3:42 PM on January 5, 2006


davy, 1Co 6:9 and 1Ti 1:10 are there for you.

he also deeply disliked malakoi, ie "sissies". that's a good amount of slurs for scripture. and keep in mind that in the first century CE, homosexuality was not seen as the horrible, horrible crime against humanity it is nowadays
posted by matteo at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2006


another good transaltion of malakoi would be "pansies", by the way. or "fairies".
posted by matteo at 3:52 PM on January 5, 2006


matteo writes "he calls them 'arsenokoitai', ie 'buttfuckers', literally.

"translators are usually more polite, but the Greek is oh-so-clear."


Yeah, this is bullshit. That "arsen" is as in the Modern Greek αρσενικό, or the ancient ἄρσην; it just means "male".

Maybe "malefuckers", but definitely not "buttfuckers", and I don't know how well we can gauge the crudeness of "koitai".
posted by mr_roboto at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2006


matteo: at least from your analysis, he appears to be opposed to certain conduct and those who engage in that conduct. That's more than a semantic distinction, I think.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:56 PM on January 5, 2006


So matteo eispnelas were arsenokoitai?

Hmmm...this peltast wanted me to meet him after the gymnopaedia, guess I’ll have to turn him down.

I’m curious exactly how they chanted “Jesus”. Was it the football pump up sort of “Je-SUS! Je-SUS! Je-SUS!” or was it the more grade schoolish taunting “Jeee-suuuuhs. Jeee-suuuuuuhs. Jeeee-suuuuuuhs” or android monotone sonorous “JesusJesusJesusJesus”, baptist jubliation “JEeeeEhEEhheeeSuuuhuhhahhuuuuaheyayhayheyaaaassss!” or sort of the gunshot victim sort of pleading “JEEsus! JEEEsus! JEEEsus!” just what was the air behind it I wonder?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:59 PM on January 5, 2006


jekponrkins: thanks for mentioning the Serbian situation. From American Bar Association blog we learn that in June 2002 a full scale conflict between judiciary and executive started in Serbia. The exchange of accusations is rather interesting.
posted by elpapacito at 4:02 PM on January 5, 2006


elpapacito - no problem. The Serbian situation is, indeed, interesting and scary.

as an aside, ho appena scoperto che sei in Italia. Forse un giorno possiamo scambiare dei email in Italiano -- ho bisogno della pratica.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:17 PM on January 5, 2006


redteam: doesn't look like a bathroom moment to me, more like a bath-house moment, and he's enjoying it might good. Kinda cute, too. Can I buy him?
posted by Goofyy at 1:54 AM on January 6, 2006


"arse" can't be an ancient Greek word.

Oh yes it is. Of course it is. As are minger, wanker, bollocks, and chav. That's from the time the Greeks conquered England.
posted by funambulist at 2:52 AM on January 6, 2006


Well, yeah. This is also the fine line which supporters of religion in schools like to blur as well. No one has banned prayer in schools. If students want to gather at a table or at the flagpole during lunch hour to pray, that's their choice. If lawmakers want to pray in the back of the chambers, that's their choice. What neither public school teachers and lawmakers can do is put a prayer on the agenda for everyone wishing to learn, or make laws.

What is not acceptable under the U.S. Constitution is making ceremonial prayer a part of the daily business of institutional government life. I would argue that this is not just an issue of the First Amendment Establishment clause, but also the lesser known article VI "...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:07 AM on January 6, 2006


If students want to gather at a table or at the flagpole during lunch hour to pray, that's their choice. If lawmakers want to pray in the back of the chambers, that's their choice.

Well, let's face it. It's not REALLY about praying is it. It's about being seen praying.
posted by Otis at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2006


It certainly LOOK like SCOTUS simply declared itself competent on Constitutional compatibility of laws.

That's not quite exactly what Marbury holds. If you read the case and dicta (and also are forced to suffer through drawn out discussions in Civ Pro and Con Law), you can see what the court said was that the Constitution gave final interpretation of laws to the courts. Not strictly the SCOTUS, but at least a final court of appeal - with SCOTUS being the logical choice. There isn't much serious debate that this is indeed what the framers intended. However, it's important to realize the court also held they were not the last word: the legislature is still free to propose amendments to the Constitution and the people are free to vote on these amendments.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2006


Yeah, this is bullshit.

why? your "malefuckers" is a bad translation, that's all -- ask any secular NT scholar. the fact is, you seem (or pretend) to be unaware of the many, many words, all of them much less crude, available to any Greek writer in Paul's time to describe gay sex (I can think of at least SIX off of the top of my head). instead Paul -- who, in other cases, had used the least spiteful forrmula "against nature" -- goes all out against gays with arsenokoitai -- essentially a made-up extremely crude, graphic word, very rarely found elsewhere. a slur, simple as that.

a slur.

so, it's not bullshit. you may know some Greek, but you seem pretty unaware of historical context and NT studies.

and again, even your "malefuckers" sounds pretty bad for, you know, scripture.

if that's not the case, why it's never translated as such, but always with much more elliptical formulas?
posted by matteo at 10:57 AM on January 6, 2006


Well, let's face it. It's not REALLY about praying is it. It's about being seen praying.

Exactly. Since politicians usually do this kind of song and dance after they're caught being scumbags, I'd say these Jesus Huddlers are feeling a mite guilty.
posted by stirfry at 12:13 PM on January 6, 2006


matteo writes "why?"

Because the prefix "arsen" isn't related to any Greek words for "ass", "buttocks", "rump", etc. That's all I'm objecting to. I'll withdraw my objection if you can find any evidence of a connection. You said the word "literally" meant "assfuckers".

It may very well still be a slur. I wouldn't know.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:16 PM on January 6, 2006


I don't know about Greek, but the word "arse" actually is one of the oldest recognizable words there is, in some sense -- the Indo-European word root for it is *ors-, meaning "buttocks, backside", which doesn't sound much different, does it? Greek is an Indo-European language, so it doesn't immediately strike me as odd that it would at some period in history have contained a related word meaning "ass." But as I am not a scholar of classical (or even modern) Greek, I leave it for the experts to determine.
posted by litlnemo at 3:44 PM on January 6, 2006


I'm no scholar and I know no Greek but googling for "arsenokoitai" brings up some interesting results on the debate over the translation of it. Seems it is a combination of words literally translating as "male bedder", but scholars disagree on what was being referred to (pederasts/male prostitutes/sodomites etc.).

I'm not sure of what was the point of bringing it up though? It's not a novelty that the bible condemns homosexuality.
posted by funambulist at 4:04 PM on January 6, 2006


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