Bryan Fischer
First Amendment prohibits Supreme Court from ruling on city council prayer
By Bryan Fischer
November 6, 2013

Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at "Focal Point"

The Supreme Court has before it a case from Greece, New York, regarding the issue of that city's practice of opening city council meetings with prayer.

I must preface my comments here with the caveat that I am speaking only for myself, and that I am referring to the Constitution of the United States as it was given to us by the Founders, not as it has been mangled virtually out of all recognition by an activist judiciary.

With that being said, the first word in the First Amendment makes clear that the federal government, which includes the Supreme Court, has no constitutional authority whatsoever to prohibit a city council from opening its meetings in prayer.

That word is "Congress." "Congress shall make no law...." The only entity which the Founders restrained in any way by the First Amendment is Congress.That also means that Congress and Congress alone can violate the First Amendment. It wasn't written to restrain anybody else.

Thus it is impossible for city councils, in Greece, New York, or anywhere else, to violate the First Amendment for one simple reason: they're not Congress.

Likewise, it is simply impossible for a state legislature or a school board to commit a First Amendment violation for the same reason: they're not Congress.

The issue of the public recognition of God and Christ was left by the Founders intentionally as a matter for states to decide. It literally was to be none of the central government's business. The central government is not allowed by the Constitution to impose religious practice on the states, and more to the point, it is not allowed to prohibit religious practice either.

If the states wanted to have an established religion – that is, a Christian denomination recognized in law as the official church of that state – they could. And at the time of the founding, nine had done so. So states were allowed by the Founders to create an established church, but Congress was not. Congress was and is forbidden by the First Amendment from doing that for the nation; it can't pick one Christian denomination and make it our official national church.

But likewise, the central government is prohibited by the First Amendment from interfering with the free exercise of religion, including public expression of religious sentiment, anywhere at any time. It is flatly prohibited from making a "law" "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. Since prayer before city council meetings represents the exercise of religion, the Court has no liberty to interfere in this matter one way or another.

In other words, if we were following the Constitution as given to us by the Founders, this case would never have been allowed to come before the Supreme Court or any other branch or agency of the federal government.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1808, "Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states as far as it can be in any human authority."

The Supreme Court, by accepting this case and not sending it back to the state of New York to be settled by state authorities according to state law and the state constitution, is itself in violation of the First Amendment. It is assuming authority the Founders explicitly forbade them to exercise.

The Court, by even hearing this case, is breaking down Jefferson's famous wall of separation, a wall established by the Constitution to prevent the central government from meddling in religious affairs.

Jefferson was a pretty smart fella, as were the Founders who bequeathed to us the precious protections of the Bill of Rights. Perhaps it's time to listen to them again.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)