Today, the Supreme Court further sullied its reputation through shear inconsistency. Remember this story from a while back? A then 18-year-old high school student in Juneau, Alaska, Joseph Frederick unveiled a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” as cameras filmed the Olympic Torch passing through town. Joseph’s humorless principle, Deborah Morse, confiscated his banner and then suspended him for promoting drug use (as if illegal drugs are the only things you can smoke out of bongs). Frederick then sued the school for violating his first amendment right to free speech.
The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court. And today, in a split decision, the Court ruled that, as a student, Frederick does not have the freedom to express anything that could be construed as an endorsement of drugs. The political left (myself included) is outraged by the further degradation of our personal freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. In a rare showing of unity, the Religious Right is also upset by the decision because they believe Frederick’s right to promote religion! See gasmonso’s post about Rev. D. Jay Johnson for an example.
Here in lies the hypocrisy…
In another decision today, the Court ruled that taxpayers don’t have standing to sue to stop the White House’s from spending tax dollars on faith-based initiatives. The suite was brought by The Freedom From Religion Foundation and argued that the faith-based initiatives unfairly favor religious charities and amounts to a federal endorsement of religion.
While I take issue with a few aspects of both decisions, what I’d like to consider here is what the Supreme Court is saying about religious expression. The Court basically decided that it’s permissible for the government to endorse religion, but not for a student. Isn’t this the exact opposite of what the First Amendment of The Constitution of The United States of America dictates? One again, read the very first two clauses of the very first amendment in the Bill or Rights (which defines our freedoms), “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. The first clause prohibits the government from endorsing religion and the second protects all citizens’ right to express their religious beliefs, no matter how unorthodox.