Monday, June 25, 2012

50th Anniversary of Engel v. Vitale

Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court declared unconstitutional for the first time the practice of government-run public schools dictating that students must pray, how that prayer was to be made, and to which deity that prayer was to be directed. The case was Engel v. Vitale.

In those days, a 6-1 decision on what was certainly a controversial case (in the public mind, anyway) was not unheard-of, and the fact that it was such an overwhelming consensus of the court (the singular vote was not truly a dissent from the opinion of the majority, but due to the fact that between the time the case was heard and the final vote held, Justice Frankfurter suffered a stroke and had to retire, and his successor Justice White excluded himself from the vote) demonstrated the clear-cut understanding of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In short, officially mandated sectarian prayer by government entities constitutes an "establishment of religion", and that promotion of something even as vague as the umbrella of religions that claim to worship "almighty God" constitutes such an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Today, we see city councils, state legislatures, and various other governmental bodies trying to do in their own bailiwicks exactly what the New Hyde Park public schools were attempting to do. One hopes that someday soon the U.S. Supreme Court will finally put the stake in the heart of this vampire once and for all, and stop all these backdoor attempts to promote someone's personal religion through the instruments of government.

No comments:

Post a Comment