It sometimes seems like all society’s issues eventually land in the U.S. Supreme Court. Take a couple of recent cases, one a decision on prayer at town council meetings that took up an issue dating to the country’s founding, the other a hearing on the challenge smart phones and other 21st technology pose to our right of privacy.
The town hall case illustrated how petty, peevish and inconsequential are some of the complaints about religion in the public square. The town of Greece in Upstate New York is a mostly Christian community and its town board begins sessions with a prayer, almost always delivered by Christian clergy, though other faiths have on occasion delivered prayers.
Predictably a couple of residents complained that the practice violated the First Amendment prohibition against government establishing a religion. These two individuals felt, according to the high court’s opinion, “excluded and disrespected.”
Nowhere was it alleged that actual harm was done. The town board didn’t declare Greece officially Christian. It didn’t pass laws on religion, it approved no resolutions discriminating on the basis of sect or doctrine or targeting followers of other faiths, it issued no edicts or orders offensive to the First Amendment. The prayers, while sectarian in invoking Jesus Christ, did not disparage other beliefs or proselytize. They were strictly ceremonial.
The only offense, to two people, was that the prayer was Christian.
This is an illuminating example of today’s grievance culture. Too many people, mostly on the left but some of the right, wear their feelings and sensibilities on their sleeves and are ever ready, even eager, to be offended.