Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Judge Posner's Zingers In High School Graduation At A Church Case

Good stuff at Seventh Circuit: Holding a High School Graduation in a (Richly Iconographically Religious) Church Violates the Establishment Clause

..The best that a judge of determined neutrality faced with a case such as the present one can do is to be guided by Gibbon’s aphorism (from chapter 2 of the Decline and Fall) that “the various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.” For “the Roman world” substitute “the United States” and for “the magistrate” substitute “the judge” and one has the right starting point for the analysis of this case. The judge should not be concerned with the truth or falsity of any religious faith but should regard the various faiths as “equally useful” from the standpoint of society, in recognition of the importance that Americans attach to religion, the diversity and intensity of their religious beliefs and observances, and the bitterness and strife that the government’s taking sides among competing faiths would engender...


...."But could it be that the cross and the banners and other religious paraphernalia visible to occupants of the auditorium of the Elmbrook Church would predispose attendants at the graduation to join the church, thus giving the evangelical sect that owns it a competitive advantage? And might not the conferral of such an advantage be thought a form of establishment? But the plaintiffs find the church offensive, and are thus in no danger of being converted. There is no suggestion that holding a high-school graduation at the Elmbrook Church has ever triggered a conversion. How often are visitors to churches converted by the visit? Conversion generally precedes attendance. How many of the millions of non-Catholic visitors to St. Peter’s — Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and so forth -- have converted to Christianity as a result of their visit to that awesome site? I mean no disrespect to the Elmbrook Church in pointing out that no counterpart to the treasures of St. Peter’s that include Bernini’s baldacchino and Michelangelo’s Pietà, the tombs of 91 Popes, a fragment of the True Cross, and the spear that pierced Christ’s side at the Crucifixion (of course the authenticity of the last two items has been questioned), is to be found there."....

And he was just getting started . More at the link,

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