Knief 1, Jeffress 0

Amanda Knief of American Atheists went on CNN to talk about the Supreme Court case concerning legislative prayers, opposite Robert Jeffress of the Southern Baptist Convention, who is pretty much completely clueless about constitutional law. Amanda did a great job. Here’s the video:

Jeffress’ argument is that the Establishment Clause only forbids Congress from officially establishing a state religion, but that simply contradicts the facts. The Congress that framed the Bill of Rights considered multiple wordings of the First Amendment that would only have done that and opted for a much broader ruling. It doesn’t say “Congress shall not establish a state religion” it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Here’s one wording that was rejected:

Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any Religious Sect or Society.

It was voted down. Here’s another:

Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

James Madison, the primary author of the First Amendment, argued that it forbid even the appointment of chaplains for Congress and the military, which bears directly on the question of legislative prayer. The question I have for Jeffress and everyone else who is okay with what so many city councils are doing is this: Why is it so important to you that others have to listen to your prayers? Every person at a city council meeting can pray silently any time they want. If the council wants to have a prayer before the meeting, they can do so in their offices before they start the meeting. The attendees at the meeting can pray before the meeting starts, individually or as a group. Why does it matter to you so much that others who don’t wish to pray have to stand by silently while you do? I think the answer to that question is patently obvious.

About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • raven

    , opposite Robert Jeffress of the Southern Baptist Convention, who is pretty much completely clueless about constitutional law.

    Jeffress is one of the old time religion guys and a huge asset for the atheists. He’s famous for being anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon. He once called the Catholic church a “cult-like pagan religion,” .

    BIGOTED MINISTER REBUKED; GOV. PERRY … – Catholic League

    www. catholicleague .org/bigoted-minister-rebuked-gov-perry-breaks-ties/‎

    Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor. Following the event, Jeffress made anti-Mormon comments. Then it was revealed that he had previously made anti-Catholic …

    The Catholic League is Bill Donohue’s site. You don’t want to visit it unless you have medical support available. It’s that ugly.

    The xians are getting away from their old sectarian hatreds. They are all losing members and power and have discovered they hate us more than they hate each other.

  • Michael Heath

    I think us secularists need to promote a far simpler message. We think it’s unconstitutional for the government to pray. When the government prays, it almost assuredly infringes on the rights of some in direct contradiction to the religious freedom clause of the 1st Amendment. So we see two violations of the 1st Amendment.

    The government delegating the power to someone other than a government official to prayer is still government prayer, precisely because it infringes upon the religious freedom rights of some in the very same manner as if the government is praying.

    If I go a meeting held by a government entity and have to suffer through a prayer, that’s a violation of a right the government is explicitly obligated to protect, not do the infringing. I could give a flying fuck if it’s a city council member or his pastor praying, it’s bullshit the government exercises such powers at my expense.

  • Chiroptera

    Why is it so important to you that others have to listen to your prayers?

    It’s like dogs pissing on a fence post. The Christianists need to rub it in everyone else’s faces that they are the ones in charge. They are especially sensitive that their special privileges are slowly but steadily eroding away; I’m sure that creates a bit of internal anguish that makes these public and state supported rituals even more important.