To hear secularists talk about the First Amendment, one would think the Founding Fathers had established it to prevent Americans from any exposure to religion, as if George Washington and company had drawn the Constitution up not for Christians but for atheists. From this perverse view has come decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence cementing in place a de facto tyranny of the atheistic minority. Under it, the First Amendment has gone from a protection for the religious to a protection against them.
This completely ahistorical and unconstitutional view has unfortunately infected the thinking of many judges and politicians, even supposedly “conservative” ones. Notice that the GOP, which once touted prayer in public schools as a platform plank during the Reagan years, now no longer even talks about it. Many Republicans approach such matters skittishly, as if the secularist presumptions of the last 50 years are too entrenched to challenge. They have largely accepted the cant that the Constitution is “neutral” about religion. Never mind that the document rests on Judeo-Christian theism — that God exists and grants rights to human beings. Never mind that the states would never have agreed to the Constitution had it not contained a Bill of Rights protecting their religious activity.
The coach is guilty of nothing but saying prayers, which is exactly what the Founding Fathers did during the Constitutional Convention.
The states clamored for a First Amendment not to render government godless but to guarantee that the federal government couldn’t swoop down and crush their religious activity. In most of those states, religion pervaded public life and government to a degree that would astonish people today. For decades after the adoption of the First Amendment, for example, states from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to South Carolina disallowed atheists in public office.
We have gone from that to fretting now over whether high school football players can be exposed to post-game prayer. How pathetic. That is the least of our worries. Public school students these days are exposed to all manner of rot. But we are supposed to be concerned about a praying football coach in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District? (The coach lost his job after he refused to discontinue the post-game prayer.)
The Supreme Court heard that case last week. But such a case would never have even reached the court during most of American history. Until 1962, the constitutionality of school prayer was taken for granted. It wouldn’t have mattered to the Founding Fathers whether the coach’s prayer occurred after the game, before the game, during the game, or in a classroom. Yet most of the questions from the justices focused on the “facts” of the case, as if the timing and the influence of the prayer on the players should determine its constitutionality.
The assumptions about the Constitution underlying the justices’ questions are simply not true: it does not insist that state governments be scrupulously “neutral” about religion and never conceived of exposure to religion as “coercion” or “discrimination.” Naturally, the liberal jurists approached the case from this angle, but so too did Brett Kavanaugh, whom Slate praised for giving the coach’s lawyer a hard time. Kavanaugh asked him: “What about the player who thinks, if I don’t participate in this, I won’t start next week? Or the player who thinks, if I do participate in this, I will start next week?”
The Founding Fathers would have considered such a concern fatuous, akin to worrying about Congress having a chaplain lest that undermine the political standing of atheists. The fact is that the Founding Fathers did not give non-believers veto power over constitutional freedoms. If secularists don’t like that, they should call for a new constitutional convention and write a new godless constitution. That would be more honest than the judicial despotism we have seen them push for over five decades, which has allowed a handful of judges to rewrite the Constitution according to their secularist preferences without the ratification of the people.
Activist judges call this anti-Constitution “living” and religiously “neutral.” It is neither. It is just a dead and blank document on which they can write whatever they please. In the end, their vaunted “neutrality” about religion just becomes a bias against it and a bias in favor of the godless state.
The beginning of the collapse of public schools can be traced to this ruinous jurisprudence, which empowered the atheistic minority at the expense of parents and students. What Justice Potter Stewart predicted — that Engel v. Vitale, the landmark Supreme Court case banning prayer in public schools, would cut the young off from the “spiritual heritage of our nation” — has come to pass.
As we can see unfolding before our eyes, a “constitution” that stands for nothing will accept everything, save virtue. It has made America more and more godless and turned schools into immoral propaganda mills, where praying coaches lose their jobs while LGBTQ activists posing as teachers are promoted.
To transform America fundamentally, the secularists knew they had to suppress the very religiosity that informed its founding. They have been largely successful in this project, scrubbing government clean of almost any connection to theism and turning every public expression of religion into a “controversy.” A measure of the secularists’ success can be seen in the hesitations of Republican-appointed judges, who act as if America was founded by the ACLU, not by the Founding Fathers.
Kennedy v. Bremerton School District isn’t even a close call. The coach is guilty of nothing but saying prayers, which is exactly what the Founding Fathers did during the Constitutional Convention. Benjamin Franklin famously called for prayers before each session. Was that unconstitutional? Yes, secularists would say, who take the preposterous position that those who framed the First Amendment didn’t understand its “real” meaning.