Let’s Not Forget the Establishment Clause

It’s past time to consider the impact of religion’s grip on public policy and the Supreme Court.

Comments: 275

  1. Oddly, this piece doesn't focus much on the fact that the court is majority-Catholic, which is a very surprising anomaly in American history. Surely the Irish connection should bring that out too.

  2. @crispin As a social justice Catholic, this is not surprising at all. Over the past 40 years, the Official Church of the US has spoken with one voice and one attitude. Democrats are lesser Catholics than Republicans. The conservative justices are demi-gods and the liberal justices are Catholics in name only. In the view of this GOP/Catholic alliance, Irish Catholics did not overturn an injustice in Irish law- they're just bad Catholics.

  3. @crispin Good points Crispin! American history 101, section on original intent. How would the founding father have reacted to a supreme court dominated by those most of whom they would have regarded as hated "papists"?

  4. @crispin The great Catholic tradition in the US Supreme Court, started by our first Catholic justice, Roger B. Taney - if you recall Dred Scott and the Civil War.

  5. Ms. Greenhouse makes an important point. In my view, if we're not vigilant, we will slowly evolve into a theocracy where all policy decisions are made on a religious basis. We need to prevent this from occurring. The Establishment Clause should mean freedom FROM religion.

  6. @Bob Gold Slowly? Sadly, the ship has already sailed, and no one did anything to stop it.

  7. @Bob Gold Former senator Joseph Lieberman famously said, "The constitution guarantees freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion." I don't think that interpretation is correct, but the current SCOTUS certainly seems to see it this way. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to change, either.

  8. @Bob Gold "we will slowly evolve into a theocracy..." Methinks you mean slowly devolve back into a theocracy.

  9. Why would she not expect the courts to honor or recognize or rule based on the Establishment Clause? Since when has the Constitution become a suggestion? Isn't it still the original rule of law that made this democracy such an astonishment? Hasn't the Supreme Court been filled with strict constructionists? Isn't that, after all, the basis for all our rights to bear arms?

  10. We are working on the theory of "equal and opposite reactions" on how the Court views religion. For years, we looked at the First Amendments Establishment clause as a fundamental way to remove religion from public life. School prayer, nativities on public property, whether we could open public meetings with an invocation - these issues were decided on the idea that to foster specific prayer, or specific religious symbols was an establishment of religion. We supported a rule of freedom FROM religion, which fired up a reactionary force we see today that argues that those actions are actually a violation of freedom OF religion. The two ideas are a permanent tug-of-war over a vast mud pit. It looks as if the Court is willing to pull us into the mud pit now. The Court is not all that good at finding the balance - the ability to protect religion while protecting others from it.

  11. @Cathy Not sure I agree with this analysis: no one is proposing to remove Religion from ‘public life’ — just exclusive rights to express a particular religious world view in government-associated spaces and policies. How do we know this? Because an examination of court documents, including the amici curiae submitted by interested parties, show theocratic arguments hiding behind the fig leaf of dubious law. Read the flat-out dishonest claims they make in those documents and you will see: fantastic claims about the powers and authority conferred upon them because of their superstitious belief; fantastic claims about the nature of marriage, which run counter to historical fact and anthropology; fantastic claims about what biology does and does not do while fetuses develop, and fantastic claims regarding the nature of gender variance and propositions that transgender people are not real but an ideology. These documents very plainly reveal the fears and paranoid projections of the religious right, who do not accept the world has moved away from superstition and magical thinking. I recommend reading them, as what they actually say is very different from what the Religious Right say in public. Freedom from religion is therefore critical and should not be seen in contraposition to the practice of religion; that is not where there is a tug of war. The actual tug of war is whether superstitious religious beliefs entitle believers to harm non-believers.

  12. @Madeleine Well said. I wish I could recommend this comment many times.

  13. @Cathy It is my belief that the “Courts” interpretation of “Freedom of Religion” is simply nonsensical more aptly logic turned on it’s head. How could we demand respect for ones religious dogma while trampling another’s?

  14. "But it’s past time for the rest of us to step back and consider the impact of religion’s current grip on public policy — not only on the right to abortion, but on the availability of insurance coverage for contraception in employer-sponsored health plans and on the right of gay and transgender individuals to obtain medical services without encountering discrimination." This article is long overdue, and I applaud Linda Greenhouse for writing it. For years, I've been beating the drum of the first amendment on all this religious intrusion into our book of secular laws, appalled at the Christian lawmakers' flagrant disregard for separation of church and state (another catchall phrase that doesn't really capture the fine parts of the "freedom of, and from, religious exercise" in American life). I was struck by Ms. Greenhouse's example how courts interpreted the case of cross in Maryland--"if you don't like it, don't look at it." Because it's easy enough to flip that back on lawmakers seeking to impose their faith on all Americans, religious or not: "if you don't like abortion, then don't have one."

  15. @ChristineMcM I think this article would have been more powerful and on point if it had quoted, analyzed and refuted the actual abortion law enacted by the Alabama legislature. After all, it is the specific language of this law, not the quote from Alabama mayor Kay Ivey, that the courts (up to and including the Supreme Court) will examine in determining the law's constitutionality. I am sure US courts will not take into account Irish--or other countries'--precedent in this matter.

  16. @ChristineMcM The religious right began its takeover of the GOP in 1992 at the convention in Houston. Since then, there's been a gradual - but not invisible - move to the establish Biblical scripture as our rule of law in place of the Constitution. With Trump's election, it is out in the open. Their knowledge that at best, Trump will be gone in 2020, so they have only so much time left to turn the nation into that theocracy.

  17. @Mimi In order to entrench the privilege of the righteous.

  18. Wasn't the Establishment Clause simply intended to bar Congress from interfering with states that had " established" churches at that time?

  19. @NJ Keith Nope. The constitution (correctly, IMO) specifically stated that there could be no religious tests for public office. The Founding Fathers did not create a secular government because they disliked religion. Many were believers themselves. Yet they were well aware of the dangers of church-state union. They had studied and even seen first-hand the difficulties that church-state partnerships spawned in Europe. During the American colonial period, alliances between religion and government produced oppression and tyranny on our own shores.

  20. In god we trust. Our legislators, not so much. Until money in politics gets a do over, wewill be subject to what the money collectors want, not what is good for the nation. The anti life anti abortion movement wants repression. It is not good enough that they can exercise their rights not to participate in activities against their religious beliefs, but they insist that every other person worship at their altar as well. That's unamerican. They may as well be communists or ISIS, commanding obedience and punishing those who remain independent and free.

  21. @Zeke27 It is ISIS and the Taliban who demand that others follow laws written based upon their religious beliefs. That parallels evangelical Christianity. I have no problem with Christians following their religious beliefs, until their beliefs harm others. These religious exemptions to our laws do just that.

  22. Enough with the histrionics, You seem to be confused about the connection between morality and religion. Atheists like to remind religious types the morality is possible apart from belief in the divine. If that is, in fact, the case, then you need to realize that some people may be against abortion for moral reasons apart from any religious commitment. That they may be both religious and with moral concern . . . Well, are you suggesting this freedom should be dis-established?

  23. @jro you seem to think the only moral dilemma is the fetus's life. One cannot expound on moral dilemmas, but then cherry pick the ones that support his/her personal preferences/biases.

  24. @jro So don't have one. Let others make their own choice. Simple.

  25. And you need to realize that some people believe it is immoral for religious zealots and the government to meddle in other people’s private lives.

  26. And when will we realize that religious beliefs also stand in the way of those with a desire to humanely end an intolerable life due to pain, illness or depression? Another Establishment Clause encroachment on basic human rights.

  27. @EBB This is perhaps already worse than you know. As a physician in Vermont a year ago, I was told I could NOT follow Vermont law (and that is who licenses physicians--the state) and work with a patient with two incurable cancers to provide the possibility of physician-assisted death. Why? Because I worked for a Federally Qualified Health Center, and the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 prohibits any Federally funded entity from participating in something fully legal under state law.

  28. Annulling the constitutional rights of a living mother in order to endow a potential human being with rights requires a rationale and a compelling state interest. The state's insertion of one distinct group's religious attitudes regarding abortion into secular law governing other religions just shouldn't be happening. The province of Virginia voted by popular referendum as far back as the 1770's to end the established Church of England's legal power to suppress other religions. Defining existing constitutional law to draw a reasonable compromise based on the trimester system was eminently sensible in 1973. This admittedly unlawful attempt to ban any first trimester abortion is a direct assault on the freedom of religion.

  29. The Supreme Court can ignore the Establishment Clause the same way that they ignore the phrase “well regulated militia” in the Second Amendment.

  30. I expect the stolen Court not only can but will. Roberts won't show his dubious mercy for much longer, and Gorsuch, the kegger, and the other rapist are aching to show how bad Republicans can truly be to actual Americans. Nor can we expect the developed world to liberate us from that Court, McConnell, Pence, and the loser, nor from their climate, opioid, and tyranny attacks. India just went full-steam reverse and gave modi a second term, even proudly so for some bizarre reason. France is too busy dealing with the anti-gas-tax yellowjackets. Germany's more hateful segments have grown powerful again and won seats. Britain, well...Brexit. We'll have to storm our own beaches this time. And that's just the way isolationist nationalists like it.

  31. @Edward C Weber And the same way they ignored "one person one vote".

  32. I'm not sure that the the First Amendment prohibits political views based on religion. I disagree with Alabama (even though I grew up there), and am pro-choice, but I cannot say that if your politics are influenced by religion they must be banned.

  33. @J Wilson No worry. No one would argue that political views based on religion should be (or could be) prohibited. Lawmakers are free to propose laws based on their personal faith-based convictions; they can't pass laws that establish those convictions as law or part of a law.

  34. Ms. Greenhouse’s point is much deeper. It’s not mere influence. Nothing wrong g with that. Re-read the column and some of the case law. The issue is when the *primary* purpose of the law is religious, whether its *primary* impact favors one religion over another or religion in general over the secular, and whether it is primarily designed to enact as *public* policy, what are clearly religious mandates and values.

  35. There is a difference - one can be religious, but that religion cannot and must not be the basis for law. Your religion trumps no one else’s religion - or even lack of faith - laws must be written and enacted with an impartial eye towards faith. This means, all the talk about souls and how personhood is gifted at the moment of conception MUST be wiped from public discourse simply because it has no basis in scientific fact, but rather is simply written in a religious text that SOME Americans subscribe to. And, quite frankly, while some believe these texts to be handed down from God, others, such as myself, feel strongly they are nothing more than parables and well-crafted fairy stories.

  36. The Establishment Clause has been under attack on many fronts (school boards endorsing mandatory prayer led by football coaches, towns putting up religious displays on public property, etc, ad nauseum) for many decades. The organization Freedom from Religion fights many legal battles against this onslaught. Its tragic that after 225 years these battles have to be continually re-fought and that so many Americans would prefer to live in a theocracy (of THEIR OWN RELIGION of course), and have learned absolutely nothing from thousands of years of religious slaughter.

  37. You can hold a religious view while voting on a law. However, that religious view cannot be the basis of the law, and the law must hold up independently of your religious view.

  38. @SXM - I agree with you, but too many people holding religious views believe their religion is absolute and find it difficult to separate "church and state".

  39. @SXM So if you vote against slavery on religious grounds the law is unconstitutional? Ms Greenhouse has confused the readers on constitutional law.

  40. @Shamrock That's exactly the opposite of what SXM said. Voting against slavery on religious grounds *is* constitutional, but writing a law to ban slavery because your god disapproves *would* be unconstitutional. Don't pretend that the only argument against slavery is religious, either. It may surprise you, but atheists *do* have morals.

  41. Excellent article. Arguably, the Establishment Clause is one of the most important parts of the Constitution, when one reflects on how terribly wrong governments that rely on religious principles go, and how much suffering that entails for people subject to their jurisdiction. As much as that Clause needs to be honored and implemented, it would also be nice if we started, in a popular movement, to reject religion itself. Religious people who have humane thoughts and take compassionate actions can do all that without the nonsense about supernatural beings, miracles, prayers, "faith," and 72 virgins, etc. The world is too awesome and beautiful to infuse it with superstitions from an ignorant and fearful time. When the fifth Supreme Court justice stopped believing in such fairy tales him/herself, we would be much safer from the inherent evils of religion, especially if that were in line with growing trends in a modern, educated world.

  42. @AM So much for the free exercise of religion. Tell your Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist neighbor that their religion is harmful. Or are you just upset with Christians?

  43. @Shamrock, Thanks for the reply. I should note that I am not a government agent. The 1st Amendment addresses government action, including the free exercise, which I consider to be a very important right of the people. Protection of the right in others to religious beliefs should and does help secure my right to believe in none. In any event, I would never take ANY step to interfere with someone else's exercise of his/her religious rights, except perhaps to the extent of trying calmly to discuss with them the anachronistic, distracting, or mundane aspects of religion (in my opinion, naturally). Also, given some doctrinal and cultural issues, I think Islam is currently worse than Christianity (by being more intrusive into the lives of non-adherents, in certain respects). Buddhism, of course, tends to be the least intrusive. But none of them have the beauty and grandeur of science and humanism.

  44. Religious moral teachings are deeply imbedded in Western culture, well beyond the issue of abortion. Religious moral codes prohibit theft. Laws against theft would not mean the establishment of religion. There are ample reasons for a robust debate about abortion ethical and moral. But the fact that there are religious precepts in some communities of faith that oppose abortion does not necessarily mean a limitation on abortion is an establishment of religion. The debate is fundamentally ethical and moral, with gray areas which explains the ambivalence in the society about abortion, and the need for ethical moral wisdom, not inflammatory political arguments and extremist solutions like those legislated in AL.

  45. @Horsepower It's naive to think that religion created laws against theft, or murder. Humans did, and then turned those laws into religion(s). There is plenty known of pre-Judeo-Christian societies, or societies that have not been exposed to Judeo-Christian teachings (few, admittedly, today) that demonstrate the reverse of what you say. The point of the article is that our Constitution is eminently clear in proclaiming that one the courts employ religious belief to enact laws that favor or disfavor non-adherents.

  46. The debate is, I agree, fundamentally one of ethics and morality. But, I would argue, in a free society - one in which we’re all at liberty to believe anything we want - morality operates at the level of the individual. The basic question is always, what ought I do? How should I choose? And the moral precepts I might employ to make my choice are themselves a choice. The state, as far as morality is concerned, is precluded both from determining which choices I make and imposing the moral principles I must use in making those choices. But, surely, it will be countered, if I’m free to make my own moral choices I’m free to kill other people if killing people isn’t contrary to my personal moral beliefs. And others are free to kill me likewise. While we are free to believe anything we want we are not, of course, free to do anything we want. So the question then is, what are we not free to do - which acts can be subject to legal prescriptions? And the simple answer to that, in a society of free and equal individuals, is any action which interferes or impinges or restricts the freedom of others. Killing someone, kidnapping them, raping them, for example, can be legislated against simply because these acts egregiously deny the equal freedom we each share. No moral rules are needed to justify legislation and in theses cases personal morality does not apply, because morality is applicable only when we are free to choose, and in theses cases we are not free to choose.

  47. @Horsepower The right to bodily autonomy is an ethical issue: slavery. Nationalizing womens wombs for the benefit of society is slavery. The horrors of the Romanian orphanages and the horrors of the Chinese one-child policy: two sides of the same totalitarian coin. It they can make you HAVE a baby, they can make you NOT have a baby.

  48. Religion, law, morals and ethics are intertwined, and wishing it were not so will not make it that way. "Thou shalt not kill" is a good example. Striking down laws unrelated to the actual establishment of an official religion as an extension of the Establishment Clause will not serve the public good, but will only make more intense the judicial selection politics that undermines our institutions.

  49. @Andrew The very nature of language further complicates the situation. 'Thou shalt not kill' is the wording, unfortunately, for the belief which is more along the lines of 'Thou shalt not murder.' Thus, 'killing' in the context of war, fr'instance, is just fine. It's not killing, after all!

  50. @Andrew - There is a secular basis for murder laws. There is no such for anti-choice laws.

  51. How about the Free Exercise clause in relation to religion? My own religion has a much more nuanced understanding of abortion, and in my religion (Judaism) that decision is ALWAYS made by a woman, her doctor, and her religious advisor. The SCOTUS will take my right to choose at the expense of the free exercise of other religions than the Christian right wing.

  52. @Comp This is exactly the point. When Christian religious beliefs of judges overrule the rights of US citizens the constitution is negated. How did that become a rule? Of "god"? Which god? Who's god?

  53. @comp: I sure hope that the Jewish position is stated clearly in a friend of the court filing. Many Christian rules conflict with other religions and must not be allowed to be put into the laws of the U.S. We must maintain freedom FROM religion because each acts like it is the correct religion and all others are wrong!

  54. @jab421 If 100 religions each claim to be the one true faith, then at least 99 of them are wrong.

  55. History is very clear on what happens in country in which one religion controls the governmental process. Sooner or later, a mixed government/faith coalition will find ways to discriminate against all others. I do not say that we'll be burning people at the stake, but it only takes a little journey down this road to find all governmental jobs, and thus their decisions in the hands of people of one faith. The Founders knew that; hence the Establishment clause. No matter how benignly it begins, or with how many good intentions, the end result has always been legal discrimination at the very least, and the Taliban as the most.

  56. James, spot on! You’ve captured a key reason for the Establishment Clause. I hope some of the religious zealots and arm chair critics out there learn something from Ms. Greenhouse’s superb analysis. Glad to see that most readers of the column appreciate her well-reasoned, and accurate, exposition.

  57. Look at Utah if you want to see religious discrimination in practice. I had a potential employer ask me which church (or was it temple) I attended.

  58. @Marsha Pembroke The only problem is that she didn’t mention any recognized legal theory or argument.

  59. "Ireland marching proudly into the future, while the United States is reconfiguring itself into a theocracy that would have appalled our Founding Fathers." No expertise is needed to note that we are marching backward and others are marching forward. New Zealand ha started a legislation on gun control. Ireland has gone whistling past their Catholic Church's dogma. And in Saudi Arabia, women are now allowed to drive, arguable a low bar, but it is Saudi Arabia which has never gotten out of the Middle ages. Lastly, thanks again for a wonderful column that is, as always written lucidly. I read your columns and use it as a civics lesson which I share with my kids. Thank you for that wonderful opportunity.

  60. The Times has, over the years, offered us some superstars: Hanson Baldwin, Nelson Bryant, Johnny Apple, Russell Baker, Gail Collins, and Linda Greenhouse lead the pack. Ms. Greenhouse always offers cogent argument, accurate exposition, and realistic assessments. Were I President, I would nominate her for the next opening on the Supreme Court. Facts and context unspoken in her piece this morning is that the Revolutionary-era congressional and Constitutional Convention delegates were elites -- by education, status, wealth, and inclination. The fundamentalist and related Trumpian fanatics are not. Like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, and others before him, Trump exploits their ignorance and fears.

  61. @Mack Ms Greenhouse is confused about the Establishment clause and a law regarding abortion. She is standing on no principle. Just flaying against those who have different views on abortion. She makes the worst possible argument. Her opponents believe in a certain religion therefore the law they vote for is unconstitutional. Does this apply to Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs?

  62. I am old enough to remember a time in this country when religion was considered one’s private business not something to be worn on your sleeve out in public. I attended Catholic school. My family said grace before dinner each night. I was also taught by my parents that it was not appropriate to say grace in a restaurant because it was a public place. “Say it to yourself, it’s not for show” my mother replied when asked why. Separation of church and state was respected, overt religiosity was suspected precisely because of the Constitution. Perhaps this sentiment was not as widely shared as I assumed but it saddens and disturbs me to see where we are now. History shows definitively that forcing one’s personal religious beliefs on others is bad public policy. No one should have the right to dictate the behavior of others based on infinitely mutable religious beliefs.

  63. @KMC - I started school in 1949 in the heart of the bible belt. There was no school prayer, no bible reading, and no discussion of religion, by community consensus. Parents wanted to teach their children their own religion at home and in church, and not have them confused by some teacher with who-knows-what religious beliefs. Once when I was in third grade, our teacher said a couple of sentences about her religious beliefs, and the next day there were very religious parents in the principal's office complaining. How things have changed.

  64. @KMC - Exactly so! I was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home with my father a pastor. He would never have mentioned politics or voting in any way - the church was adamant about the Separation of Church and State. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant in Texas? Oh my! Lots of people hold hands and someone says the blessing out loud. BTW, I've been agnostic for years now.

  65. @KMC Yes. And the fight about prayer in public schools? I've had people tell me about the "old days" when prayers were normal in public schools, They were not. (Not in my public school days, 1953- 65). An I remind them that my class had to relearn the pledge of allegiance in September 1954 after "under god" was added. I resent that "ban on prayer" phrase: no one was ever banned from praying on their own. This newer fundamentalist right is intent on, as your mother suggested, making a show of their religious tenets, and turning them into law.

  66. Great article. But the Republican Supreme Court will be the final arbiter of whether the Establishment Clause applies to these radical Christian attempts to force their faith on the rest of us. And it seems determined to push us down the path of the Republic of Gilead.

  67. That’s what she wrote! No “but” needed!

  68. The United States' structure is certainly showing its inadequacies. An outdated, preposterous Constitution; the elaborate, ambiguous amendments; the structure of the judiciary (lifetime appointments on party lines); state powers; unelected cabinet secretaries (they should be drawn from the elected party, as in parliamentary systems); the blurring of the separation of religion and state; Trump showing how inadequate the safeguards are when so many align with his corruption and power; the electoral college and the undemocratic Senate; gerrymandering; but you get the sad picture. All these are surmountable challenges in a functioning democracy, but your allegiance (when convenient) to the constitution and the inviolability of structure set in place three centuries ago, paralyses you. I see no way forward; there is only rapid disintegration and chaos.

  69. @Terence Most of these problems are unfixable, because they would require amending the Constitution, which requires a supermajority which doesn't exist. The Constitution's bar for passing an amendment is ridiculously high.

  70. This Supreme Court is so fanatically religious, that it behaves more like they're conducting an Inquisition than interpreting th Constitution. Just listen to Brett Kavanaugh's disturbing rant about "liberals" and "left wingers," which, in and of itself, should have disqualified him from the court. Sadly this country is sick with religion and always has been. I am glad that you know the Constitution better than the justices seem to, and I am grateful to the founders for trying to keep religion out of governance. But until this court is dismantled, as it should be, nothing is going to change. The Supreme Court has ruined this country on so many levels. We are more violent, less healthy, less of a democracy, so divided economically, less educated, but boy are we more religious with our thoughts and prayers for everyone who has been killed because of the rigidity and cruelty of this Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is not alone in his hatred of liberals and liberal ideas such as equality for women and access to abortion - the Court is riddled with his type of thinking. It is a "moral" court in the sense that it seems to think it has a godly duty to amend the behavior of our citizens. Except for Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagan, this is an activist, moralistic court that doesn't really seem to care at all about law, only about controlling "morality." They are scary, they are old and they need to resign.

  71. @Joanna Stelling - Don't forget Stephen Breyer who is Jewish, same as Ginsberg and Kagan. Sotomayor is also Catholic but liberal. Gorsuch was raised Catholic but attends an Episcopal church, and his religious conviction has remained unclear. So we have the Catholic and Jewish faith represented, plus Gorsuch. I would love to have a few agnostics/atheists on the Court, but that is a dream.

  72. @Pat Boice I am anxious to see what Gorsuch's stance is on these matters. He was recommended for Justice of the SCOTUS by Sen. Cory Gardner who is a personhood fanatic.

  73. @Joanna Stelling Your comment about Kavanaugh should be shouted from the rooftops

  74. Why not? Why wouldn't judges refer to the clear constitutional language forbidding the use of religion or "god's will" to prevent individual rights? There were clear religious references made by the Alabama fundamentalist male lawmakers who took away women's rights and physicians' rights. And why wouldn't progressives use as a valid argument separation of church and state as enshrined in the constitution? I'm a progressive and these are the first arguments that came to mind in this current attack on women's rights as well as the right to privacy, the basis of Roe V Wade. Like too many pundits these days, the ability of "average people" to understand and think through the issues is being underestimated and if our current crop of candidates behave the same way it will be at their peril, and ours.

  75. Isn’t part of the problem the fact that in Ireland, the people voted and decided the issue, whereas in the U.S., the Congress has never acted decisively to protect women’s rights, leaving states like Alabama, Georgia and others free to act in an attempt to overturn prior Supreme Court decisions?

  76. The Establishment Clause is an unequivocal declaration that in our governance we are a secular country. Separating governance from personal belief requires personal maturity, so there will always be a cohort that will feel unfairly restrained. Laws, however, are meant to support global freedoms, not freedom from internal dissonance. To test whether a law is secular or religion-based, consider whether its basis relies on the condemnation of others for their convictions, not their actions. Example: a baker can refuse to provide a cake because they feel condemnation of their customers' life experience: where's the maturity in that? And now, proposing a doctor can refuse treatment options because their faith in the love of God allows them to condemn others? Internal discomfort with others' beliefs wins over healthcare? Spirituality and social maturity need not be mutually exclusive.

  77. @Satter "To test whether a law is secular or religion-based, consider whether its basis..." Court justices always have to reveal the philosophical basis when they make a ruling, but do statutes and other laws do that? For example, the 18th amendment gave no reason why alcoholic beverages were being banned, it simply proclaimed the ban.

  78. @Charlesbalpha - Oh for pete's sake, when the 18th was passed there was tons of discussion about the evils of drink. Justification is rarely contained in a law or amendment.

  79. Ms Greenhouse cites one line in a dissent of a former Supreme Court Justice. That’s her entire constitutional precedent. Good luck on this argument prevailing.

  80. @Shamrock Please reread the article. Ms Greenhouse says several times that she doesn't think her argument will prevail. She only hopes the Establishment Clause will be remembered & that US citizens will also remember there was a REASON for its inclusion in the First Amendment..

  81. @downeast60 Her readers think she is stating a constitutional principle that should be followed by the Court. I’m glad you understand she is just flaying in support of abortion rights.

  82. @downeast60 Great. An argument that possibly prevail. What a great idea.

  83. Let's also not forget the parallel issue of religious tests for federal office, prohibited in the Constitution's Article VI. During confirmation hearings for federal judges over the last decade, Senators have asked specifically about a nominee's religious views and then expressed opposition to the candidate based on those views. Sounds like a religious test to me.

  84. @R.K. Myers I heard that some evangelical leader met with VP Pence and urged him to hire more evangelicals for the Civil Service. Of course to do that he would have to ask about their religious beliefs and that would be a an illegal religious test for office. The article did not say what Pence's response was.

  85. @R.K. Myers More details please. Maybe they opposed them for the very reason this article sadly had to be written. And where are the atheist judges. Sounds like a religious test to me.

  86. Our congress has failed us when the leader of the house or senate can decide which proposals come to the floor for a vote. They should all get a vote- one that is recorded and published. This process of letting the voters decide in the next election has stymied us for the past 9 years We can do one of two things Mandate that all proposals get a vote Or put it on the ballot and let the people vote

  87. @Deirdre Congress votes on so many bills no newspaper would ever devote time to even a small percentage of the total number. Watch C-Span if you don’t believe me.

  88. Five of the current Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Gorsuch was raised Catholic but now is an Episcopalian. I suspect that this reality is, in part, what is driving the march towards outlawing abortion. Still, while the Supremes are free to exercise their religious proclivities as they see fit, they should not be allowed to impose those views on the rest of us.

  89. @Susan Gorsuch went to an Episcopalian church because his wife is English/Anglican. His mother was a right wing extremist politician and conservative Catholic who tried to dismantle the EPA as Reagan's appointee. Gorsuch is probably less of an Episcopalian in his religious philosophy than the Pope. Like Kavanaugh, he reeks of arrogance.

  90. @Susan Well at least you are not applying a religious test.

  91. @Susan What is horrifying here is that we know what religions our justices, and of all of our leaders, follow. Think of how ignorant these people really are if they actually do believe in gods.

  92. Depressing that judges aren’t tested on their objectivity and bias before sitting on the bench. Robotic knowledge is easy. Sifting through one’s own bias to reach an honest conclusion is where the work is.

  93. Just as religionists believe in things, I believe in the pendulum: when political matters swing too far towards one direction or the other, they tend to swing back. The more heinous the anti-abortion laws, the greater a backlash. True, we can't expect reason to affect Supreme Court judges steeped in ideology, but we (I ?) certainly can expect the voters to be repulsed by those politicians who hide behind religion in order to get cover for their hateful actions.

  94. @eclecticoIt requires people to vote. That is why we have a country who believe certain things in the majority like access to abortion, some gun restrictions, better access to health to cheaper healthcare, less income inequality and are ignored by elected officials who hold their seats due to a minority. The fact is the majority are lazy and don’t vote! And that’s why we end up with a small slice of the electorate making all the decisions. I used to say that the majority was “too busy” like most pundits do. They don’t have time to follow what’s going on because they are working sooo hard. I now say that’s bunk. We’re simply lazy. We have plenty of time for online porn, YouTube, Facebook, binge watching, filling up bars, having our kids on 3 different teams every season. You can’t tell me that people can’t read a newspaper every other day.

  95. It is very clear that much social legislation has a root in religion; as such it is vulnerable to sectarianism. That is why abortion and LGBTQ rights are such political battlegrounds. Religions do not take consistent views on all matters. Analyses borne by scientific skepticism and philosophy serve us much better than ‘revealed truth’, which is nothing but a sham to preserve religious hegemonies. We need to legislate within a secular framework, informed by perspectives from many religious and non-religious traditions, science, and the humanities. We need secular arguments that rationalize legislation. Recent events and legislative proposals reveal to us the intent of right-wing Christians and Republicans. They have no secular arguments to offer for their drive to control people’s bodies and civil rights — all they have is superstition, historical grievance, magical thinking, and fear — expressed by fear-mongering, sanctimony, hysteria, and hypocrisy. I completely understand where Ms. Greenhouse is coming from, but we cannot push such a consideration aside. I cannot afford to do so, as I’m on my way to losing all the civil rights I’ve fought for for over two decades. I am not afraid of using every tool available to protect my civil rights, including legally challenging the existence of sectarian gods.

  96. We are at another crossroad requiring balancing of the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. The reason, as you accurately note, is America's steady march towards theocracy. Christian fundamentalists now possess political power that is hard to comprehend, considering the constant decline in the number of people who identify themselves as religious. Abortion is not their only target. Gay marriage, contraception, teaching of evolution, any LGBTQ rights and the ability of others (particularly Muslims) to freely practice their religion are under siege. Until something is done to change the manner in which we elect the President, Americans will continue to lose their religious freedoms.

  97. @Disillusioned " Christian fundamentalists now possess political power that is hard to comprehend" Christian fundamentalism became politically powerful because they were the only institution willing to criticize the Supreme Court when it removed an issue from democratic control.

  98. @Charlesbalpha - So let's have a national referendum on choice.

  99. @Disillusioned Sounds like you only approve of certain religions.

  100. It would be my interpretation that what we should be talking about is what should happen when the establishment clause and the free exercise clause conflict, as they seem to in many cases. Once again, we have to trust the writers of the Constitution's ability to use simple English construction: they are NOT separate clauses because they are separated by an "or"! The "or" combined with "pass no law" means that both are prohibited. This is both simple mathematical logic, and proper English usage. So if EITHER right is trampled by a law it should be ruled invalid constitutionally. Probably too much to expect that justices with Ivy League (6) or Stanford (1) college educations would know proper English usage or mathematical logic. Maybe the Holy Cross and Cornell grads can help them?

  101. @Leigh LoPresti How about some of our prestigious public universities like Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Berkley, UT Austin be represented? Justices from any of those universities would also give geographical and cultural diversity to the court.

  102. @Leigh LoPresti Cornell is an Ivy.

  103. In the Hobby Lobby case, a reproductive rights case, the Court HELD that the plaintiff's belief that life begins at conception was a "deeply held religious belief". This is now the basis to attack the religious belief statues in addition to the other Constitutional basis for Roe v Wade. Freedom of Religion and the Establishment clause are two sides of the same coin. Both are clear textually and the law since the beginning. The only secular interests in abortion are safety and viability. 70% of Americans have a different religious belief than Catholics and Evangelicals. In fact, in 1789 there were no anti abortion laws. The first was a "safety" issue law in Connecticut in 1821. Even the Catholic Church did not have the same belief does today. That started to change in 1869, 80 years after the Constitution was ratified.

  104. @Newman1979 " 70% of Americans have a different religious belief than Catholics and Evangelicals. " That is true nationwide, but if Roe vs Wade is overturned abortion will become a state matter, and some states have a lot of Catholics or Evangelicals. And how they vote should be of no concern to people outside the state.

  105. @Charlesbalpha - So if a state allows the religious practice of taking willing virgins to the tops of pyramids and cutting out their hearts, then holding them up, still beating, to their God, the people outside that state should not be concerned.

  106. Can you specify how the Catholic church changed its position?

  107. The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause work in tandem to create a balancing act that is the separation of church and state. Ms. Greenhouse lucidly exposes the tilt that may tumble us off the wall into a theocracy. The Washington Post has an excellent article on the Federalist Society and Leonard Leo, who are stocking the courts with conservative judges: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/leonard-leo-federalists-society-courts/?utm_term=.a9ad1830ca42. Mr. Leo is a conservative Catholic, a religious label that now dominates our Supreme Court. We need to restore the balance of separation of church and state -- good fences make good neighbors.

  108. There is nothing more American than Apple pie or Puritanism. American Puritanism, the religious and social philosophy that created this nation's original witch hunt, has determined the underlying notion of our morality. Modern day Puritans believe only they know God's will and they are duty bound to enforce their interpretation on America. The constitution like the Bible can be read many ways. To Puritans, the constitution is read as a document that guarantees their right to enforce their religious views on everyone. Republican politicians have found the Puritan strain useful; give them a justice of two and they will back you no matter what else you do or say. Like gun owners, coal miners, and those who fear immigrants, loyal Puritan support is easily bought with a crumb or two.

  109. "The law contained a preamble declaring it to be a “finding” of the state legislature that “the life of each human being begins at conception.” Justice Stevens was egregiously wrong in his view that this is a religious statement. It is plainly not, even if some people, for their own purposes, claim it is, and even if some people who state it are religious. Whether the "life of a human being begins at conception" is a question of definition and of fact, and as such it is subject to debate, with valid arguments on both sides. No religious dogma or sentiment need be part of that discussion. When human life begins is a matter of biology and the definition of "life" - the question has nothing, zero, to do with religion – even if religion can and does weigh in on it. Even if the outcome of the debate is that the fetus, or embryo, is a human being, it is then a separate question as to the state's interest in protecting its existence, as compared to, say, the interests of the mother, or, potentially the father. This part of the discussion is political, and again has nothing to do with religion. The wild notion that attempted legal prohibitions on abortion are rooted exclusively in religion and therefore run afoul of the First Amendment is wrong at best, and is nothing more than the use of obfuscation to achieve dishonestly by fiat what cannot be achieved by public discourse in a democratic society.

  110. @John Xavier III So lets take the confusion out of it and let the decision fall upon the Dr. and his/her patient. Sounds simple to me. With that said, there is a much larger underlying issue in this opinion piece, religious fundamentalism. My opinion/translation of the 1st Amendment relative to religion is a citizen of the United States has the right to practice any religion he/she chooses, or none at all. It does not give the state or any citizen the right to impose a religious ideology on another citizen or use religious beliefs to decide how another citizen chooses his/her pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

  111. @John Xavier III It seems to me that public discourse is never a factor in legislation of this type. Just put these laws up to a popular vote, by the populace.

  112. @Jay Schneider "So lets take the confusion out of it and let the decision fall upon the Dr. and his/her patient. Sounds simple to me.' Prime example of trying to achieve by fiat what you can't convince the other side of. The point is, which you miss, that abortion rights is ultimately a political decision. If a legislature decides your solution, so be it. If a legislature decides otherwise, so be it. You can always turn them out in two years, or six, if you disagree with the decision. But the left is afraid of political decisions on this subject. It is afraid it would lose. I am not sure it would lose but that's the fear. It is a fear of a democratic solution. Hence, bring in the courts and Roe v. Wade. And now you see the result - abortion wars 45 years later.

  113. It is also interesting that there is an editorial about China’s control of religion. The religious right, a minority, would be happy, as would Trump, to dictate their edicts on all of us. As disappears the Constitution, so goes the democracy.

  114. Americans are weirdly blind to the intrusion of religion into the public sphere. Establishment Clause violations are so routine, that they are cited as proving that further violations must be OK. We have everything from theistic opening prayers at the start of legislative sessions (I've even seen this at the NY City Council, with those not participating with bowed heads getting death glares), to the word God being inserted into the pledge broadcast to public school students daily to "in God We Trust" on the currency. None of this is actually compliant with the Establishment Clause. Every anti-choice advocate I've ever spoken to eventually winds up backed into a corner where the rationale for their position is effectively "because I believe God says so".

  115. @Working Mama Not understanding the Establishment clause. Are the Civil War Amendments unconstitutional because the moral stance of its supporters and legislators is based on religious beliefs? Of course not. Ms Greenhouse’s piece isn’t even a constitutional law argument. No judge will invalidate the Alabama law because it’s supporters are religious.

  116. @Shamrock - Er, Amendments cannot be unconstitutional. Their purpose is to CHANGE the Constitution.

  117. @Shamrock a law runs afoul of the Establishment Clause if a religious view is the only justification. Religious doctrine is not the sole source of morality, and there are practical, common welfare reasons for a great deal of legislation even if these laws are also consistent with some religious beliefs. However, express religious invocations at legislative sessions, for example, do not serve any non-religious purpose.

  118. Protecting the lives of infants in the womb is not establishing a theocracy. This Op-Ed is devoid of history (what the Establishment Clause meant at the time of the framing of the Constitution) and devoid of medical information about the life of the new person in the womb (whose DNA is entirely distinct from his or her mother or father). What Ms. Greenhouse would like to establish is a secular baseline which is equivalent to atheism and is itself a religious position, as are Deism, or Agnosticism, and then assert that any position with which she disagrees is somehow "establishing a religion." Defending children in any woman's womb is not establishing anything except the value and rights of the child involved, although clearly, the mother's right to safety is superior. To criticize the finding that life begins at conception then must lead to the question: when does life begin? If the proposition advanced is that it begins when the heart begins beating, is that acceptable? The idea that women or doctors may take the life of children two minutes before birth is both morally grotesque, and indistinguishable from infanticide. There is no part of Ms. Greenhouse's Op-Ed that addresses any real issue involved in this controversy. She never, as abortion advocates never, talks about the development, personhood, DNA, heartbeat, prospects, hopes or potential lives of the children in the womb, whose lives are being terminated.

  119. @Tom Wolpert -- as my high school biology teacher used to say, "Life began 4 billion years ago and hasn't stopped since." So there's your answer to that. "Personhood" is an incoherent concept applied to a fetus. You say the mother's life is "superior" to that of the fetus -- that's essentially saying some humans have more right to life than others. Shall we then compel a 90 year-old man to surrender his liver to a 20 year-old with cancer? Atheism is not a religion -- to have a religion you need a deity. People can hold the views they like and practice them in their personal lives. But the state must not favor one religion over another -- that is Linda's point, and abortion laws she cites violate precisely that crucial American principle.

  120. @Tom Wolpert then I would assume you also understand the 2nd Amendment was written at the time to allow for the creation of citizen militias.

  121. @Tom Wolpert you make a valid point that pro-choice camp rarely touches on the lives/potential lives of the 'children in the womb'. Just as true: the pro-life camp rarely touches on the issue of women having autonomy over their bodies. In other words, you've managed to point out 1 out of the two entrenched positions. Complaining that the 'other side' won't leave their trench, while simultaneously refusing to do anything but hide in your own is ludicrous (yet you're doing it, along with so very many others). This debate has gone nowhere in decades because of this dual entrenchment. This debate will go nowhere until we stop looking at what others should do and start looking at what we ourselves should do to have a real dialogue.

  122. Enough European blood was shed over religious differences in the centuries before the American colonies were settled to inform the men of the Enlightenment who were our Founding Fathers that Organized Religion and Government were not a good mix. Expulsions of Jews from England and Spain, the Spanish Inquisition, expulsion of Moors from Spain, the Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation, religious wars between Christians and Muslims, endless battles over what is now the Netherlands and Belgium were fresh. The American colonies were settled by Puritans who thought most Protestants were not devout enough, Quakers fleeing from others of different beliefs, Anglicans who believed that the King of England was the divinely appointed head of the Church, Presbyterians who drove King James crazy in Scotland, Baptists, Agnostics, Atheists, Catholics, and Jews. Such were the backgrounds of those who wrote the Constitution. In our current era, in which more people have become more highly educated, and exposed to others of different faiths, more Americans are less inclined to accept religious dogma on faith alone and more than 23% of Americans have no religious affiliation at all. Despite the Roman Catholic Church's teachings, 98% of American Roman Catholics have used birth control at some time in their lives. The Establishment Clause was a good idea then and a good idea now. No one's religious beliefs are more worthy than another's beliefs or non-beliefs. Live and let live.

  123. @JMT or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

  124. The establishment clause is of course there for a good reason, to ensure our country's law is based on the rule of law, isolated from religion. To bring in religion is to breach the boundary of the rule of law, with foreseeable catastrophic consequences for civic life and individual freedoms.

  125. @Robert And what many who came to this country we’re trying to escape.

  126. Both of the two last appointees to the Supreme Court are catholic and the product of catholic education. The use of the Free Exercise clause to bypass other civil rights is a troubling suggestion that the Court, at least on First Amendment questions, has become a catholic institution. Christianity unlike religions like Judaism is a highly aggressive religion and an obligation to carry the "good news" to the heathen throughout the world has always been an important part of the Christian mission. The prominence of Catholics among conservatives recruited for the judiciary does not bode well for religious freedom in the United States.

  127. @Michael Replace "catholic" and "Christian" in your above comment with some other group descriptor - such as black, gay, female - and perhaps you'll see how bigoted our comment really is.

  128. @Michael should ANY Catholic be allowed to run for office in the US? Or is it just the judiciary they should be barred from? Isn't it possible to object to abortion on strictly moral, not religious, grounds?

  129. Thanks to Linda Greenhouse for this important analysis. Perhaps it will form the basis for the long-term debate we need about whether the entire Constitution applies to American life or just the parts of it favored by one set of extremists or another. I'm thinking of the NRA and the Christian religious right here, although we are all held hostage not only by them but others who pervert the liberties provided to us by the Founders to serve their own narrow interests.

  130. Thank you, Linda Greenhouse, for an overdue discussion about the Establishment Cause which has all but disappeared from not only opinion pieces but court decisions. It used to be a prominent segment in civics classes which have also disappeared. An equally frightening aspect of ignoring tis clause is Mike Pompeo's frequent pronouncements during his roadshows as Secretary of State that his diplomacy is based on Christian values. Of course this is the same member of the cabinet who has a christian version of the Bible open on his desk at all times, using a pen knife as a bookmark.

  131. This is an important column that will most likely be ignored by many. Thank you Ms. Greenhouse for writing it!!

  132. The Establishment clause is there to protect freedom of religion, not to move politics and the law away from a moral grounding. There is broad opposition to abortion from many people and for many reasons: religious, social, moral and personal. People speaking out against, or for abortion as a federal policy and a non-enumerated right are free to do so on any grounds - and so are religious and secular organizations. God bless us all in that. The comment of 'shackles' of the Catholic Church being imposed in Ireland in some strained sense has a grain of truth, but it is overwhelmingly pejorative, anti-Catholic and false - the law on abortion there historically reflected the moral sense of the country, led it is true by the Church. But then all laws should in some sense reflect and be based upon the values adn morality of the times and the people shouldn't they?

  133. @John - Your argument completely ignores the rights of others. To force your religious values and morality on others is precisely what the Establishment Clause was meant to prevent. You are still free to practice your religion. If you are opposed to abortion, don't have one.

  134. @John That does not negate the fact that laws restricting the private medical decisions made by a woman and her doctor on the basis of a religious conviction are unconstitutional.

  135. @John - The "shackles" that were incorporated into law also tolerated the mistreatment of unwed mothers, and the production of countless orphans to be exploited and/or abused, often by religious organizations. These same laws, overly influenced by the Church, helped hide the reality of much crime. I'll spare the gory details. This is not anti-Catholic, it is history.

  136. The Establishment Clause may have been intended to avoid the situation in England, where the Anglican church had a privileged position. Some church officials even had seats in the House of Lords and were in a position to vote against democratic legislation. The situation in the US is different: voters who let their religious beliefs influence their voting. Does this violate the Establishment Clause? How could one enforce it if it did, since one cannot read the mind of a voter unless they speak of the influence as the Alabama governor did? How does somebody distinguish "good" religious influence, such as the involvement of ministers in the civil rights movement? It's not a matter of everybody "ignoring" the Establishment Clause, as Ms. Greenhouse claims. It's a matter of how it's interpreted.

  137. Of course people's religious beliefs will influence their voting. And they will vote for politicians who claim to share their religious convictions, no doubt. But these politicians cannot use their religion as justification for passing any law. That's where the line is.

  138. @Charlesbalpha - It's easy. It should be against the Establishment Clause to pass laws that force any kind of religious belief on people. Anti-choice laws, anti contraception laws, etc, do just that. Furthermore having to avoid looking at a 40 foot cross, like ignoring a cross burning in front of your house is difficult to ignore. so should not be allowed on public land. It forces religious beliefs on others.

  139. @Charlesbalpha This is a confused argument. The Establishment Clause has nothing to do with religion influencing voting or what ministers can or cannot do. People are free to vote however they want for whatever reason they want and ministers are free to advocate for whatever religious beliefs they want. The Establishment Clause is about laws and using the law and the agencies of government to force people to conform to religious beliefs they do not hold. If the basis of a law about abortion or civil rights is religion, it violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitutional. It does not say anything about what beliefs an individual may hold. If you hold religious beliefs that forbid you from having an abortion or marrying someone of the same sex, you are free to choose to not have an abortion or marry someone of the same sex. All the Establishment Clause says is you can't use the agencies of government to force someone else to adhere to your religious beliefs.

  140. Greenhouse is hardly the first to advance this argument about the grip of religion on our political (and therefore our social) lives. About a dozen years ago, the author of Nixon's Southern Strategy, Kevin Phillips, argued similarly in a brilliant book called "American Theocracy." One of his chapters is called the "Dixiefication of America" in which he traces the expanding influence of the Religious Right. What seemed novel a few years ago has become conventional wisdom today.

  141. @jutland I thought she was talking Constitutional law?

  142. People cling to religious rules when government can’t provide safety- religious law is a side effect of Trumpism and a virtually nonexistent safety net.

  143. Thank you Ms. Greenhouse for this column that provides us with a history and an update on this important Establishment Clause. I feel grateful for all her columns! I worry about our country's future with this Supreme Court and its recent appointees by a President who has no idea what this is all about. By the way, President Trump seems to care little about "morality", only about appeasing his base religious right voters. How sad.

  144. Great comments from those who read Ms. Greenhouse's thoughtful piece. It should be clear to anyone who can read that the Establishment Clause is, by itself, enough to invalidate Alabama's absurd anti-abortion law along with hundreds of others stemming from thousands of years of ignorance and indoctrination brought on by religion. That a large majority of the Court has long bypassed using the Establishment Clause comes as no surprise, however. It is ironic that the fundamentalists jurists who call themselves strict constructionists pretend that the Establishment Clause doesn't exist. The truth is that strict constructionists only deploy this argument when it suits their own selfish ends, and this is where the real problem lies. Judges use the law to do what they think is best - and religion indoctrinates its followers by teaching them that what is best are religious teachings. Until we create a secular society and get more secular judges, we are destined to be governed, in part, by the laws of men and women teaching creationism to our children, banning vaccines, and wearing magic underwear.

  145. Since law is not physics (wish it were so) and requires subjective interpretation (wrapped in the opaque trappings of logic), I choose to interpret it in the most general sense as "Freedom from Your Religion". Live and let live. It is a delicate balancing act of compromise. If done properly then no one is perfectly happy. My concern is that certain groups (e.g., evangelical christians) are much too happy these days.

  146. @DrLawrence Religious freedom for me means that I don't know who believes in what. I don't want to hear the word "god" or see you cross yourself or be expected to sit in a jury box with the words, "In God We Trust" hanging over the head of someone supposed to judge something. Why is it so much to ask that everyone just shut up and mind your own business?

  147. Perhaps the difference between Ireland and the U.S. on the issue of abortion is the intervention of the Supreme Court. The country that was slowly moving in the direction of choice until the Court, in a very activist opinion based on a little precedent or grounding in the constitution stepped in and froze the issue for 50 years. What was and remains a political issue at heart never had the opportunity to evolve due to this misstep, and we are paying the price today.

  148. @DRS The problem with burning civil rights issues is that what legislation giveth, legislation also taketh away -- or even ignores rather than deal with heated beliefs. At some point the federal courts have to step in and declare some kind of uniformity over civil rights cases, otherwise you get a constantly changing set of patchwork laws that treat people as criminals depending on what state or city they are standing in at any given moment. The USA is similar to having 50 Irelands all bound under a federal framework but largely able to do whatever they want until their laws start bringing them into conflict with their neighbors. Waiting for 50 Irelands to all do justice by the country's citizens is simply ignoring the cries of those citizens.

  149. @DRS At the time Roe was passed, somebody asked why they didn't rely on the democratic process to settle abortion law. The answer was that "the Catholic church" was too powerful. Yeah, I'm sure the Alabama legislature was terrified of the Catholic Church.

  150. As always, Linda, cogent and clear. It troubles me just as much as the evisceration of the Establishment Clause that the Constitution's prohibition on a religious test for holding public office is also essentially a dead letter. Everyone running for president must declare his/her "faith" -- no one gets past the gate without it. Our tolerance for this egregious violation of constitutional principle undergirds the whole project of inserting religion into public policy.

  151. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Supreme Court avoided deciding the merits by claiming "animus" was displayed in certain statements by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Never mind that the statements were true. The Court basically said, toss the case back because of non-neutral statements on the part of government officials regarding religious conduct in the past. The whole point of the Establishment and Free Excercise clauses is that government must be neutral with respect to religious beliefs. The courts have always called it the "neutrality principle" The pro-life movement is 95% motivated by Christian religious beliefs about Conception being a sacred event. Conception is a core metaphor/allegory for the entire theology. It's lack is what gives the Jesus story power, for instance. It all goes back to pre-medieval pagan sex cults, worshipping the magic of reproduction and sex and female pregnancy, etc., and converting them to Christianity through story co-opting. If the Supreme Court had any intellectual integrity, a statement like Governor Ivey's ("deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God") said in her official capacity would immediately demonstrate non-neutrality and be a violation of the Establishment Clause. That statement, and so many others of the religious forced-birthers, plainly shows an animus against rationality and the Enlightenment. The pro-life movement is religious tyranny at its core.

  152. Yes, I think the rationale in the Cakeshop case will come back to haunt the court. As it should. Particularly in the cases of all the supposed ‘conservative’ judges this Senate is salivating to confirm. Past statements, pre-judging certain positions- fodder for arguing, demanding recusal. But I’m sure it will be....distinguished, isolated, etc.

  153. @Doug McKenna Thank you- I'm just another guy on the street, but this has bothered me from the start. What is more disheartening is that the Muslim ban was upheld 2to 3 weeks later. Here we have the President, showing animus at every turn, and it's all good by them. So, Ms. Williams, no it will not come back to haunt them- they abandoned their own precedent less than a month later.

  154. The founding fathers---which our conservative justices appear to hold in great esteem---were not religious individuals, and in fact were highly skeptical of these mystical belief systems. They had direct experience with Europe's clerical rein and wanted none of it. As we see today, with the Middle East a glaring example, theocracies never end well.

  155. Although many of our founders—prominent among them Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin—were skeptical of religious dogma, they were not therefore irreligious or hostile to religion. Most were deists who believed that God had established a moral law that human beings should obey, just as he had established the natural law that the physical universe obeys. It is this belief that underlay the Declaration of Independence and the philosophy of John Locke to which Jefferson appealed. The founders wanted to separate church and state, and doubtless they would have been appalled by the religious right and its crusade to impose its sectarian theology on the country. But they would have been troubled as well by claims that religious values have no place in the public square.

  156. Bravo. And finally, a credible columnist in a respected media outlet has pointed out that the abortion question is fundamentally about the First Amendment. Pre-viability (at least) it's abundantly clear that prohibitions on abortion violate individual citizens' First Amendment right to freedom of religion and belief. After all, as Greenhouse notes briefly, not all religious traditions (by far) concur that a developing fetus or embryo is equivalent to a post-parturition human being from the moment of conception. Indeed, scratch the surface of most (though not all) of those with anti-abortion views and you'll find a belief in a soul (or something similar). Fetal pain is not the issue; science has clearly demonstrated when that occurs (and it literally can be no sooner than 20-24 weeks). Meanwhile, infliction of pain and suffering is tolerated on sentient, intelligent creatures for no more reason than human pleasure (99% of pork in the US is raised in monstrously inhumane conditions). Fetal "heartbeat" is not the issue; the "heartbeat" detected at six weeks is anything but. And again, creatures with much more sentience and ability to experience pain have heartbeats, too. To such comparisons, many anti-abortion activists will say that humans are fundamentally different than animals. Press them further, and you'll soon arrive at something akin to a soul belief.

  157. A soul is simply defined as the form of a living being. There's no such thing as "believing in souls"; they are a thing by definition. The only inherent significance of a soul is 1) differentiating between animate objects (eg cows) and inanimate objects (eg rocks), and 2) inticating that a given animate object is distinct from others in kind and number (ie one cat soul encompasses one cat--not two cats, not a dog, not a cat and a tree). The statement "a fetus has a soul" is really just saying that it is 1) alive and 2) a distinct being, and if they use the adjective "human" at some point, that it is 3) human. All three of those things are scientifically verified statements, so there's no controversy in the statement itself. Furthermore, those three facts do not in and of themselves necessitate any given conclusion on abortion without a fourth principle that indicates whether such an object has a right to life. In summary, when someone states that a "fetus has a soul", they are simply conveying in shorthand a set of scientific facts that do not in and of themselves constitute a position on abortion. Consequently, the statemt neither validates nor invalidates someone's position on abortion without some further principle.

  158. @CB Evans The author didn’t make a recognized legal argument. She argued a law should be unconstitutional because Christians voted for it. No judge would endorse such a ridiculous position. Many would be offended.

  159. The author is devoted to making sure the government respects her interpretation of the establishment clause, while at the same time suggesting that it is the goverment's duty to ignore the exercise clause. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This has probably always been challenging to figure. We decided as a country not to allow polygamy, for example. But in America we would like our right to gather for worship, to not work on sabbath, to not participate in medical procedures against our faith, to dress in the manner expected of our faith.... these are also addressed in the first amendment. It seems difficult for some to understand that faith is the center of life for many, and prohibiting the free exercise thereof is also against the first amendment.

  160. Not only is the creeping intrusion of religion into law and public life unconstitutional, it is profoundly in-American. The American colonies were founded for and by religious dissenters. They were fleeing Established religion. When the time came to start an independent nation our founders were keenly aware of colonial history as well as the history of European religious warfare and tried to codify separation of state from church into law and founding documents. This seemed to largely hold back the tide until the 1980’s. The current right wing politicians who want more religion in law and public life — they are unAmerican.

  161. Let's be clear about what the establishment clause really says. It mandates separation of church and state, which are institutions. It does not mandate separation of religion and politics. Religion and politics are sets of beliefs and activities, sometimes ill-defined, and law against combining them would be meaningless and unenforceable. People of faith have contributed mightily to the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, and opposition to the Vietnam War because their faith led them to work for peace and social justice. I'm pro-choice, because I think banning abortions is questionable religion (what's the scriptural basis for it, anyway?) and bad politics. I also think legislative bodies should keep out of theology, because it isn't in their mandate or their skill set. But I don't see how doing political things for religious reasons violates the First Amendment.

  162. @Philip Holt, "I don't see how doing political things for religious reasons violates the First Amendment". I think that's exactly the definition of theocracy. Shall we mandate that everyone attend Catholic Mass on Sundays (it is a sin not to if you are a Catholic)? Allow religious exemptions from military service as Israel does? Ban gay marriage because some religions say that too is a sin?

  163. @Philip Holt As someone with a masculine first name, you're unlikely ever to come smack up against a purely political but religiously motivated refusal to terminate a pregnancy likely to dramatically alter the trajectory of your life -- or even end it. Such an experience might alter your viewpoint.

  164. My understanding of the Establishment Clause is that it provides for freedom FROM religion. Despite the thinking of many citizens, our nation is not a Christian country. No particular religion is specified as being the one defining religion of our nation. This does not seem to be a difficult concept to grasp. However, the same fear of loss of power that fuels racial issues creates a fear of “the other “ that may have a different God or no God at all. Originalists who can read should be able to see that God is not mentioned in the Constitution. They should rule accordingly. If not, then they are not Originalists, they are hypocrites who have no place judging anyone.

  165. The framers tried their best to keep religion out of politics but their efforts have been largely ignored by the politicians. Even my car tag carries a religious message. As an agnostic, I find the practice of infusing religion in politics particularly annoying. Further, the laws in question are all based on the Christian religion when there are apparently thousands of different religions extant. That sounds like an establishment to me.

  166. @Clark Landrum I find it annoying that atheists want to participate in politics. Obviously I’m joking but that’s how these anti-religion comments sound. Ridiculous.

  167. @Shamrock Tales like Noah and the Ark are even more ridiculous.

  168. Since the key to making a case lies in an emotional appeal that resonates with people, how about pro-choice advocates start re-framing it that way? Let's start with: I will not let a gaggle of religious fanatics order me, my family, or my doctor around under the threat of jail if we don't practice their beliefs.

  169. @Allen Bagwell Would that apply to Muslims who said it was consistent with Shaira law?

  170. @Allen Bagwell The Supreme Court has never declared abortion a religious issue. That notion was just invented by abortion lobbyists to make criticism of Roe vs Wade look illegitimate.

  171. @Shamrock Of course- there’s precious little difference between fundamentalists of Islam and Christianity.

  172. Constitutions represent the will of the people. Things that are commonplace now were unthought of when our Constitution was written. We will always have problems and disagreements trying to solve todays problems using a 240 year old document. Ireland has a Constitution that is regularly changed to reflect the will of the citizens. It has a Constitutional Convention, 100 people, 65 of who are citizens randomly selected, which considers any amendment to the Constitution in advance to make sure the change is not just on a whim, but represents a necessary change. Do we need a similar system to make sure our Constitution represents the will of the people in a way they can understand? Producing an answer to an important issue of public policy by sometimes bizarre judicial contortions clearly leads to anger and confrontation.

  173. @Michael Feely "Constitutions represent the will of the people. " Constitutions SHOULD represent the will of the people. But in the US many provisions cannot be updated to match public opinion because of the extreme difficulty in passing an amendment. Lots of times people circumvent the amendment process by urging the Supreme Court to "re-interpret" the Constitution, which gives the Court exorbitant power.

  174. @Michael Feely On separation of church and state I believe our Constitution is already clear enough.

  175. "Ireland marching proudly into the future, while the United States is reconfiguring itself into a theocracy that would have appalled our Founding Fathers." It's because the last gasps of Boomers like me is to long for the days and times of our youth. Play "Leave it to Beaver" on prime time TV and we'll be too distracted to ruin the country.

  176. @BobWoods, I was born in 1947 and I strongly support separation of church and state. No religion should be able to determine our laws. The “evangelicals “ who want to force their religion down the throats of Americans are religious fanatics just as much as the Taliban or the Islamic State. Leave It To Beaver should be renamed Leave It Alone. Or perhaps keep your religion to yourself or we will force you to practice ( fill in the religion of your choice here). My choice would be Ba’al ism.

  177. @Bob Woods One might suggest instead that Ireland is retreating to the worst of its pagan past. In Roe, Harry Blackmun admits that the Hippocratic tradition banned abortion, but blamed the prevalence of Hippocratic ethics not on their intrinsic merit but because the Roman Empire became Christian. Better them old days when even newborns could be abandoned and die. Luckily, in modern day Virginnie at least the Governor is committed to making them "comfortable" as they expire.

  178. Thank you Ms Greenhouse, and thank you, NYT, for carrying her clear analyses of major legal issues. She provides the references, the context, in which decisions about the law have been made. This is one of the most important topics today. Passage of these religion backed laws does signify a slide into religiosity, and away from science and politics as a way to determine our way of life. And it also reflects a split in the civil rights we can actually exercise dependent on the state in which we live. How does that make any sense whatsoever in a constitutional democracy?

  179. @cheryl Would it make sense to declare a law unconstitutional if Andre Carson, my Congressman here in Indianapolis who happens to be Muslim, said he voted for it because of his Muslim beliefs? Of course not.

  180. Reading this opinion piece and the comments leads to the logical conclusion that abortion supporters feel they don’t have sound arguments if there are saying the law should be declared unconstitutional because the legislators that voted for it are Christians.

  181. @Shamrock We don't support abortion; we support a woman's right to choose without influence from ANY religion.

  182. Thank you Ms. Greenhouse for shining a light on this subject. And we hear the VP Pence tell a graduating class that Evangelicals are being discriminated against - the old victim ploy. We've got to get this religious right mess under control somehow. They are shoving their beliefs down our throats through legislation. The wall we must erect is the wall of Separation of Church and State.

  183. The Establishment Clause prohibits a State Religion as was universal in Europe at the time, and forbids the Federal Government from establishing a particular religion or Sect as the Religion of the State as the Church of England was so established in 5 southern colonies, semi-established in 5 southern NY counties and the Congregationalist in New England. for some decades CT, NH and MA had state religions until MA abolished it in 1834 and the Supreme Court in 1848 ruled the Establishment Clause applied to the States. The Clause does not remove the right of religions to be in the public sphere but it does prohibit law-making based on a sectarian doctrine, deistic or not, rather than secular law though the result often coincide. The issue or abortion must be decided on legal, ethical, scientific criteria and not on sectarian religious principles. If religious persons do not want one or perform one they must not be compelled. Personally I oppose abortion on whim or because one doesn't like the baby's sex, after first trimester - not for rape, deformed fetus, health of the mother, incest.

  184. @Alexander "the Supreme Court in 1848 ruled the Establishment Clause applied to the States." People don't often realize that in the early years of the US, the Bill of Rights was considered to apply only to the Federal government. When Jefferson fought for religious freedom in Virginia, he considered it a separate fight from the First Amendment, because the First Amendment didn't apply to Virginia. It was the Civil War and the amendments that followed that made it clear the Bill of Rights applied to all levels of government.

  185. Thank you for this article. I am increasingly dismayed by this Supreme Court. Perhaps the greatest example of their religious bias, and unwarranted discrimination against religions other than christian, is the recent rulings on the right of death row inmates to have a religious presence of their choosing at their death. Christian pastors/priests are pro forma okay, but ask for a Buddhist, or god forbid (ironic), a Muslim, and you are out of luck, at least until they were called out on that one. And the great respect for life does not extend to an inmate wrongly denied the choice of how he dies, just because it's inconvenient for the Court to make a decision at the last moment. And don't forget the Muslim ban on immigrants and refugees, where the clear religious discrimination was excused because the "facial reason" stated was not based on religion. (The judge who ruled that Trump's financial documents should be produced because the "facial reason" for the subpoena should not be questioned may make the Supreme Court eat its own words. Interesting to see how they will work their way around that one.) This Court is busy making us a religious dictatorship. It is begging for reconstruction.

  186. @Eero "Perhaps the greatest example of their religious bias, and unwarranted discrimination against religions other than christian, is the recent rulings on the right of death row inmates to have a religious presence of their choosing at their death." They did no such thing. In the first case all they rules was that the plaintiff waited too long to make the claim, that it was not filed in a timely manner. In a case after that, filed in a timely manner, they rules that an inmate in Texas had the right to a Buddhist leader. So, the court has affirmed the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

  187. The question of where the Establishment Clause ends and the Free Exercise Clause begins permits politicians to interpret (manipulate) as they are want to do. Should the answer not be that the Free Exercise Clause ends at the door of a faith's house of worship? In other words, when a faith seeks to practice its beliefs in the public arena (outside of its house of worship) arguing that its free exercise rights trump an otherwise constitutionally guaranteed right of other Americans then it is prohibited by the Establishment Clause. Of course we do not expect logic to prevail. Religions follow no logic. Their practitioners act upon faith and they do not care a whit that legislating their religious beliefs trample the rights of others who do not adhere to their myths.

  188. Sorry but I am not aware of any faith that is limited to time inside a house of worship. Nor I imagine were founding fathers. That is a tiny part of the exercise of religion- that is just going to a house of worship. You might consider what Dr King would have thought on the idea that religion exists only inside a church.

  189. @JABarry How many times have we seen prevailing "logic" fail? Religions and values systems are the same thing. Both are codes that try to allow mankind to live together in peace. Science 50 years ago said it was logical to feed me 400 birth control pills a day in while I was in the womb. Later science proved that logic was garbage and based on false data and poor interpretation of data. Some have faith in science which is a tool not truth while other have faith that man is not as smart as he thinks he is. My health proves you wrong.

  190. @JABarry "they do not care a whit that legislating their religious beliefs trample the rights of others who do not adhere to their myths" And vice-versa. In reality, we have a balancing act that the courts have to take a look at carefully. Kennedy seemed to have the right approach, look at the harm and if it is not great, do not infringe. Take Hobby Lobby. The harm is basically nothing. No one is bound to work there. The few abortifaciants they were concerned with are not expensive, not used frequently. Folks could get the insurance directly. As such, there is not reason to infringe on the personal beliefs of the company founders. We should all APPLAUD such decisions even if we disagree with the stance of the person or company. Look at all the folks screaming about Janus and how it weakens unions. First, there are many states already that had this policy and unions are fine. But even if it did, what it does is move power from the union and give freedom to the individual. We should all LOVE this decision.

  191. Christianity is mentioned nowhere in the body of the Constitution. The only nod to it is in the signature section at the document's conclusion and there only as a reference point concerning the date the founders signed the parchment. There are historical and political reasons for that. Yet so-called originalists on the bench, on the floors of Congress, in state houses and at Klan meetings continue ignore the Establishment Clause and place fealty to Christianity above their loyalty to the Constitution. As opposed to many things contained in the Western World's shortest constitution, there is zero ambiguity when it comes to the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The framers made sure of that.

  192. @James J, well put. And as I always point out to the religious zealots-- the FIRST is first for a reason. Its freedoms are central to who we are as a nation, as a We the People. They were revolutionary thoughts in the 1700s! Slowly the first is being chipped away in a modern time where power is accruing more and more to those who are anti-modern. Who share little in common with the "men of the enlightenment" who wrote our core document. Zealots like Pence are the antiithesis of folks like Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson.

  193. @James J Many of the Founders followed a now-extinct religion called deism. Deism preached a wise creator who built natural laws into the universe. Deists disdained miracle stories, because their deity would not violate his own laws. Studying the laws of nature was a better way of worshiping their deity than going to a church. A scientist would have better judgement than a priest, particularly a priest who worked for a politicized church as in England.

  194. It always amazes me how justices who claim to be strict Constitutionalists like Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas will pick and choose from the constitution what upholds their personal beliefs. To some extent all justices do this because our constitution does not fit all of our modern situations. But conservatives who hide behind behind the constitution as they apply their own moral standards are Supreme hypocrits.

  195. This type of Constitutional cherry-picking is remarkably similar to the type of religious cherry-picking also exhibited by these justices, as well as the so-called fundamentalists. Were these folks all to adhere strictly to all tenets of the Bible equally, rather than simply those that conveniently supported whatever position they want to enforce in the moment, they would find themselves in a much less comfortable position. Sorry, Gorsuch - no more cheeseburgers or shrimp for you! And that cotton blend shirt you've got on? Forget it. And Kavanaugh, the (formerly?) drunken profligate would be in deep yogurt as well. Lastly, Deutoronomy strictly forbids the attempt to forcibly convert others to another religion. I'd say these guys are failing spectacularly on that one. There needs to be the removal of all religious justification from legal decisions, although the 1st Amendment clearly supports the freedom to live your religious conscience - as it applies to you. That seems to be the biggest disconnect here.

  196. What most people do not get is that the so-called abortion rights issue is not about abortion. It is about freedom of conscious and the freedom to believe in whatever religion, philosophy or world view and live by it. There are certain things in this universe that can only be defined by ones religion, philosophy or world view. It is precisely this reason why the American Society choose to emphasize the Freedom of Religion and to keep The Government out of it. The people who want to define for me, or anyone else, when life starts is doing so in the face of that concept. They are denying me and anyone who has a religion, philosophy or world view that say life begins at a different time their right to their freedom of conscious. If in the end the Supreme Court does not "get" what I have just stated above and strikes down the intrusion to others religion, philosophy or world view then an argument can be made that the basic social contract has be broken. A broken social contract means that individuals in the United States are then free to engage in any and all measures to secure their inailable rights to freedom of their religion, their philosophy or their world view to live by. The enivitable outcome of this will mean internal terrorism, and a police state to tamp it down, at the least or an all out civil war at the most. Are the people who want to pick when life begins for others ready to pay that price to push their views on the rest of us?

  197. @JD, perhaps your last sentence was meant as a rhetorical question. But let's look at where most of the anti-abortion, anti-woman fervor is coming from: the former states of the Confederacy. They had no problem seceding, an act of treason. They had no problem turning back all the gains of Reconstruction, and carrying their horror forward (and codified) in to the 1960s. And here we are. Let them go, I say.

  198. @JD I think you mean conscience.

  199. Of all the lies that have become the tenets of the modern Republican Party, the two biggest are that Republicans are "conservative," and that the their base of so-called "evangelicals" follows the teachings of Jesus. It's pretty obvious to most of us that they really don't care about or follow most of what's in either the Constitution or the New Testament. The credibility of the Supreme Court is at a new low in modern history after the fiasco of McConnell's, Trump's, the Federalist Society's and Heritage Foundation's appointments of their two chosen ideologues, and if the Court blasphemes the First Amendment by giving religious extremists any more power/control over Americans, that may be the end of the Union, and the beginning of a militant movement toward separatism of the Blue States. A majority of Americans are trying to make a go of it in the 21st Century, and will not stand for five zealots in black robes attempting to take us back to the 1850s, or is it the 1750s?

  200. @Cowboy Marine Nope, those five zealots in black robes are attempting to take us forward to the 2050s.

  201. Isn’t it shocking that the so-called originalists, who now dominate the court’s collective belief system, ignore a fundamental tenet of the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Sadly, it is not shocking enough. Thank you for an important piece, Ms Greenhouse, and for recognizing Justice Stevens’ important dissent. His memoir is making it on to my book list, after all. The evangelical Christians who are wielding their power (enshrined within the ironically named Federalist Society) will continue to overplay their hand. The real question is, “Who will stand against them?” And when?

  202. @Paul Ruscher: Aren't these the same people who are now called Reds, and who don't want us to turn up the heat on Russia? John Birch is turning over in his grave.

  203. I will stand up to those “EC’s” anytime, anyplace, anywhere ! Count me in ! For the record: Jesus was a wonderful HUMAN BEING whose life was sadly cut short.

  204. I am whole-heartedly for a separation between church and state -- but my mind can't help wonder what would happen if we had a law that disallowed abortions only for Christians? They're the ones who are most concerned.

  205. A hundred times yes! The Establishment Clause should be treated with the same respect as the Free Exercise Clause--they were clearly meant to be read in tandem to create the right to exercise religion in private but also to create a public sphere free of religious coercion. This is not what we have today. I was raised Mormon; the first 20 years of my life was dominated by the dogmatic fervor of people who view non-believers as sinners. If We the People are to be free to live according to the dictates of our own conscience, we need to claim the right to a secular public sphere.

  206. The anti-slavery movement was chock full of religious zealots (e.g., John Brown). Should the slave system have been maintained so as not to "impose" someone's religious beliefs on someone else? The mid-20th century civil rights movement was pushed forward by many religious leaders (e.g., MLK). Did that make it constitutionally illegitimate? People come to their views on public policy issues many ways. Just because some or many people ground their views on a particular issue through their religious beliefs doesn't mean they should have no voice on the matter. And it certainly doesn't violate the Establishment Clause.

  207. @Tom. These are good questions, but I will note that Greenhouse argues that religion should not be used as a reason for taking away an individual’s right. So she frames it more narrowly than saying it should not influence policy debate. Still, I’d like to hear her response re the abolitionist movement.

  208. @Tom, religious people having a "voice" in framing public policy is not at issue. Of course the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, expression, and conscience. It confers on no one, however, the right to deprive others of their free exercise of conscience. The historic changes you cite do not result from religion's "voice" in the public forum. Ending slavery meant recognizing the "unalienable" right to moral autonomy of the enslaved. Ending segregation and Jim Crow meant recognizing the equal and unalienable right of ethnic minority persons to education, employment, public accommodations, and all benefits and burdens of citizenship so that they could fully exercise moral autonomy. Similarly, recognizing women's right to control their reproductive lives is also a matter of securing their moral autonomy and, with it, the fullest possible development of their personhood. Indeed, any religion that strives to deprive any segment of the population of moral autonomy is a sham, a disguise for exercising power over the deprived group. There is no virtue in being coerced, no blame either, because the morality of an action depends upon freedom of the will. Ms Greenhouse is mistaken only if she takes seriously the anti-choice movement's claim to be acting on religious motives. I suspect she seems to recognise their religious argument only for the sake to offering an argument against it.

  209. @Tom Religious belief was also invoked as a reason for slavery and segregation.

  210. A hundred times yes! The Establishment Clause should be treated with the same respect as the Free Exercise Clause--they were clearly meant to be read in tandem to create the right to exercise religion in private but also to create a public sphere free of religious coercion. This is not what we have today. I was raised Mormon; the first 20 years of my life was dominated by the dogmatic fervor of people who view non-believers as sinners. If We the People are to be free to live according to the dictates of our own conscience, we need to claim the right to a secular public sphere.

  211. @[email protected] They were not intended to be read in tandem but as no establishment as a way of fostering free exercise. The Constitution is not agnostic to religion; the Constitution supports RELIGIOUS freedom.

  212. When we have representatives and Senators stand up in the halls of Congress reciting biblical scripture to support or criticize proposed legislation, this is a problem. By doing so, they are pointing to what they believe is a higher authority, and that the foundation of all that is good and right is in that book. Can you imagine representative Omar from Minnesota standing up in a speech to the House citing passages from the Quran? It would consume the news cycle for days, and she would be further demonized. But with biblical passages, we just yawn. Let's strive to keep our government secular.

  213. Clearly, given her citation of Webster, Greenhouse shares former Justice Stevens' rabid secularism. Happily, the Founders didn't, since the First Amendment can be read not as two religion clauses (no establishment/free exercise) in free fall and occasional conflict with each other that we wait for the judicial divines to adjudicate, but ONE religion clause, which supports free exercise, which facilitates that ONE goal by barring establishment of a particular Church (what the founders stipulated), NOT hyper-allergy to religion in public life per se (a deviation starting with McCollum and a hypersensitivity overdeveloped in the Warren and to a degree Burger courts, in need of some massive judicial benadryl).

  214. @JOHN John, your assertions are based on claimed knowledge of what our Founders meant or did not mean, as if you can read their minds. That is not a good way to support a counter-argument claiming that the vague language used by the Founders supports particular religious beliefs and practices, much less that they can be inflicted on non-believers. This is just motivated reasoning based on wishful thinking. Leaving aside your inflammatory description of secular views as rabid, show us instead why such views are not in the interest of all citizens, believers and non-believers alike? What non-religious, non-superstitious justification can you offer in support of religious control over non-believer bodies, beliefs, and practices?

  215. @Madeleine I plead the Constitution: an understanding of the First Amendment that was commonplace until 1947's deviation by McCollum v. Board of Education. Nobody before McCollum thought the Constitution required society to be neutral vis-a-vis religion (esp. what was called "civil religion") in general, only against particular religions as established polities. As for "inflammatory description," Greenhouse's characterization of "religion's grip on public life" and her invocation of the finding about when life begins in the Missouri statute--a finding consistent with Roe's admission that state's have interest at least in the "potential" (OK, so Blackmun plied fake science) life of an unborn child, which Missouri asserted, has nothing to do with the religion clauses, period (except for Justice Stevens and Linda's desire to beat that drum in this piece).

  216. While I'm personally pro-choice, I don't believe that the Establishment Clause provides a sound doctrinal basis to nullify anti-abortion legislation. Pro-life forces can and will argue that the mere fact that a law may be motivated by religious tenets does not mean that a state may not justify the law on independent moral and public policy grounds. Thus, just because the Ten Commandments instructs "Thou shall not steal," a state clearly has a secular justification in proscribing theft in its criminal statutes. As long as a law can be justified on both secular/moral and religious grounds, it is difficult to see how the Establishment Clause is applicable. Thus, despite criticism of Roe v. Wade's "right to privacy" basis, those grounds would seem to be far more defensible than an Establishment Clause attack on anti-abortion legislation.

  217. Antiabortion laws aren’t just motivated by religious belief. They are founded on it. They start by imbuing “human life” — and the sanctity of life — in the embryo or fetus. Then they say abortion is wrong because murder. There is no secular basis for declaring an organism “human”. There is no scientific test to distinguish the pre-human embryo from the born baby, no line crossed with a sign reading “Now Entering Humanity”. Any assertion that life begins before it can sustain itself — before viability — has no factual basis. It’s pure belief, exactly what religion demands and proclaims.

  218. @Don Davis Spot on. The establishment clause is irrelevant in these cases. Especially abortion.

  219. How is it that separating church and state is radical and unrealistic? A probable good outcome of the deplorable influence of evangelicals in politics will be the emergence of a powerful atheist block. Humanism and Science will win in the end - truth has a well-known liberal bias. I look forward to the day when we remove, "In god We Trust" from our currency and FL license plates. Or, in FL, give us the option of "in Science we trust", or Freedom from Religion!

  220. For any change to happen in America, it requires us to (a) recognize we are NOT a great country (but have the capability to be), (b) remove the pernicious effect that establishment special interests, politicians, media and politicking (e.g., punditry and lobbyists) bring to the table and (c) remove Citizens United. In other words, I am not sanguine about change.

  221. @FurthBurner Citizens United increases freedom, does not decrease it. The remedy is easy, add a constitutional amendment. Fact is, all the hand wringing about CU was nonsense, it has not cause any new problems. What we need is for folks to move to their civil libertarian roots and stop the federal dictations of the GOP and Dems and push as much as possible from the feds to the states, from states to the people. We should all be cheering Janus, not because it weakens unions, but because it increases personal choices and freedoms. Same with Gay Marriage. Same with Hobby Lobby. You can agree or disagree on the concepts, but you should be cheering the personal freedoms.

  222. For someone who has no problem reading the Second Amendment in a narrow cramped literal manner (A well-regulated militia...), Miss Greenhouse so easily reads the Establishment Clause way beyond the words of the text. The clause says that CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. It does not bar the President or the federal courts from making a law respecting an establishment of religion. And it does not bar State legislatures, courts or governors from making any law respecting the establishment of religion. (Bizarre and arbitrary interpretations of the 14th Amendment were needed to do that.)

  223. Yes, but you’re being too clever by half. Under the constitution, neither the executive nor the judiciary makes law. Congress does, as you know. The executive carries out the law. The judiciary decides if the executive’s enforcement is lawful. While it’s true that regulatory rule-making and stare decisis both have the weight of law, that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for the president or the courts. Congress still made the law, however indirectly. The entire national government is enjoined, not just congress. I wonder what kind of country you want to live in. One in which the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, over and above every other law? Or one that applies only insofar as the federal government is concerned? A 14th amendment that doesn’t supersede state law is the legal regime that undergirded Jim Crow for 90 years. Americans either have rights as Americans or they don’t. I’d rather live in a country where they do. All of them, everywhere.

  224. Regarding the 2nd amendment- as a docent at Monticello many years ago, I had the luxury of reading the letters to and from Jefferson, Madison and others. Based on those, I would offer that while they wholly believed owning a gun was a mans right, they also believed that providing said right came with the right of the government to call on any gun owner into defense of the nation. Given that framework, one could argue that gun ownership today necessarily makes all who do so members of our citizens militia, today known as the National Guard. Therefore Governors should have the right and ability to muster and gun owner into service.

  225. @SHerman. Presidents don't make laws except as specifically authorized by Congress. Courts don't make laws, they interpret them. One of the most important features of our democracy is that the Bill of Rights applies to the States.

  226. Linda Greenhouse mentions the fact that abortion was legal when the US was founded and for a long period after that. My understanding is that the reason why it was initially banned had nothing to do with the life of the fetus, but was due to the fact that abortion was at the time a very unsafe procedure that put the lives of women at risk. So, if this understanding is correct, the modern religion-based attempts to ban abortion are quite unlike the reason for the laws that Roe v. Wade was addressing.

  227. @Old Mountain Man Cyril Means revisionist history of abortion law. Truth is that while there were no statutory bans before 1808, English Common Law considered abortion criminal, especially after "quickening." You don't pass statutes to ban things that are not commonplace -- that there is no ban on artificial insemination in the 18th century doesn't mean that society was indifferent to the gametic origins of progeny, but that society did not need law to figure out those origins should be within a marriage.

  228. @Old Mountain Man: My understanding of the 19rh century bans on abortion differs from yours. The newly organized medical profession decided to drive midwives from the practices of attending at-home births and also providing abortions as needed, and at a time of unreliable birth control, abortions were sometimes crucial to health and family life. The physicians organized to criminalize abortion, put midwives out of business, and moved the practice of obstetrics into hospitals. Maternal and infant mortality rates probably dropped as a result, but abortion did not disappear when it became illegal, and eventually, the mortality and sterility rates from back-alley abortions became enough of a public health concern to drive a movement--a life-saving movement--culminating in Roe v Wade. That movement is now stymied by a death-driven pseudo-religious backlash. Let us not forget that 19th century physicians were male, and the midwives were female. It was then and still is a question of who will control women's reproductive rights. I believe a close study of 19th century medical history will support my perspective.

  229. @Old Mountain Man I thank John and Mary C. for their comments. As I say, it was my understanding, and I was not certain of the information. The connection with the medical profession that Mary C. mentions is very interesting and it may be a garbled version of that that I had heard. And, the "quickening" guideline that John mentioned is also something I had heard of in terms of the Catholic Church's beliefs (prior to the 20th century).

  230. Ms. Greenhouse writes that the "conservative" justices are pursuing an agenda of nullifying the Establishment Clause while elevating the Free Exercise Clause. I wish she had pointed out that, in doing so, those justices are deliberately misinterpreting both clauses, which as a matter of logic are inextricably linked. Together, they express the philosophical principle that freedom of conscience inheres in individuals, who should be neither impeded nor favored by the coercive power of the state, which must remain neutral & secular. I think we should admit to ourselves that, with respect to the Constitution, the so-called "conservative" justices are in fact radical: they are deeply opposed to the liberal, secular nature of the First Amendment. Contrary to the Constitution's prohibition, Senate Republicans are now applying a religious test (opposition to abortion) to the appointment of federal judges, & those judges, in turn, have begun to apply a religious test to our laws.

  231. But why has this situation- the religionization of public affairs - happened? To me the reason seems clear: we misunderstand the Establishment Clause due to a failure to understand its historical context. In colonial America and in some of the early Republic's states there were official established churches, endorsed and supported by the various governments. The Establishment Clause was intended to outlaw that ancient custom, to establish no state supported church. Jefferson's characterizing it as a wall between government and religion led to a misunderstanding, that it is a freedom of religion clause. It is not. It is a freedom FROM religion clause, that religion cannot be imposed on us. That it provides freedom OF religion is strictly incidental. This issue likely will not be turned around until we get back to the founders original intention. That we have supposed "originalists" on the court is only one of the ironies of the situation. If they really were so, rulings to protect our right to be free from religion would be nearly automatic.

  232. Yes. It is a freedom from state religion clause. Then, what follows is the free exercise of religion clause. The goal was not apparently a country full of people who had no faith, rather a people who could freely exercise their freely chosen faith. Or lack of it. Such a precious right we so take for granted. We are so blessed to be part of this country. What are we all fighting about?

  233. One of the mistakes in this debate is to constantly reference the "religious right." In truth they are more accurate described as right wing zealots who use religion for their political ends. They are able to do this in part because of the silence of other religious groups and leaders. Whether life is sacred, or more accurately, whether 'innocent life' is sacred is an inter-denominational debate with only one side being heard. Governor Ivey certainly doesn't think all life is sacred. Her enthusiastic use of the death penalty attest to that. States that cut funds for pre-natal care to poor women increase the mortality rate of women giving birth and increase child mortality. Why aren't those lives just as sacred as the ones that their anti-abortion laws supposedly protect?. If religious leaders that favor abortion rights would become more vocal the court might be faced with whose theology these laws are really based on. If members of the state legislatures that voted against these restrictions based their vote on an alternative theological view maybe then the court would have to decide whether the Establishment Clause permits supporting one religion view over another. We are a religiously diverse country and any law supposedly based on religious conviction automatically lifts one religious view above all others. This is exactly what the constitution forbids

  234. To define abortion as primarily a health issue is disingenuous. That brackets consideration of the developing fetus recognized as a person at birth by law. The source of the right to terminate this development by embedding it in the extrinsic issue of health is a deflection. This does not exclude consideration of health, but does not use it as the fundamental issue of maternity. The more basic question is “By what right does any person have to stop the development of a human fetus and therefore, the likely birth of a person?” The justification of that right is the basic issue.

  235. @Bill Sr. The way you pose the question makes it clear that it is fundamentally a religious issue. A human fetus is not a human except in the eyes of certain religions. Throughout history, both in law and in most religions, we have not considered fetuses to be humans.

  236. By the right that said fetus is growing inside my body; living off my tissues; displacing my vital organs; ripping my muscles, ligaments, skin and connective tissue. I’m a human being, not a mobile incubator.

  237. The Bible doesn’t consider humans to be fetuses either.

  238. RLUIPA - a thumb on the scale of justice in favor of religion. And a mighty weight against local zoning laws when religious groups want to over-ride them. The threat of lawsuits invoking RLUIPA either silences or financially crushes opposition.

  239. The deep core of Roman Catholicism at the heart of the Supreme Court is our current problem. Indeed this branch of fundamentally anti-human but pro-divine collusion takes us back to the middle ages when this particular superstition held sway over our European ancestors. The Court preserves this pre and anti-enlightenment mindset just perfectly. We need a few atheists - or at least Deists - on the Court, and soon.

  240. Perhaps we should also recognize that Irish traditions may be seeing a rebirth of an even older legal construct than the English derived system practiced in some form in most of the world. That legal system from Celtic Times was called Brehon. It’s customs and underlying foundation is based on equality rather than hierarchy. The Irish saved civilization during the dark ages. We may need to call on them to do so again

  241. @Marston Gould Interestingly, they saved civilization in the Dark Ages not because they were Irish but because, by that point, they were already Christians.

  242. The anti-abortion movement may be forcing itself to begin repudiating religion if it wants to continue to raise its claim of support for laws designed to protect the health of pregnant mothers and their babies. The wave of RFRA laws this decade has created an avenue for women to claim a deeply and sincerely held belief in not bearing children in the absence of a father or in the presence of financial hardships likely to befall the child. Denial of the legal right to claim exemption from abortion restrictions that run counter to those beliefs would appear to be prohibited by state and federal RFRA's, as well as by the 14th Amendment. Limitation of that right to time periods not amenable to the time constraints of a pregnancy would raise fears of gender discrimination. The only person whose religion should figure in the decision to seek a medical abortion is the mother herself.

  243. These arguments have nothing to do with the establishment clause which his why the courts have ignored it. In most of these cases the federal government is pushing freedom OUT to states and people, not trying to dictate anything based upon religion. In fact they are distancing themselves from dictation religion or restricting religion, the key goal of the establishment clause in the first place. Also, don't confuse religion and morality. In a recent study, 20% of agnostics/atheists are pro-life. That is obviously a moral, not religious stance. And don't confuse constitutionality and belief. One can be pro-choice and believe that Roe v Wade was a constitutional farce, a pure activist decision creating a 'right' out of thin air. That the proper way to codify the concept of Roe v Wade is a constitutional amendment, not an activist court decision. And one can disagree with the Hobby Lobby stance, but understand that it was a proper constitutional decision, that it increases freedom, does not decrease it, while causing no major harm. The Hobby Lobby and Gay Marriage SCOTUS decisions, what do they have in common? They both increase personal freedoms. Which is why the GOP and Dems were 1-1 in these decisions while CATO, a civil libertarian think tank, was 2-0 in their amicus briefs.

  244. @Marvin The Hobby Lobby decision absolutely DOES cause major harm. It says that an employer has religious rights but the employees do not. So, it says that some people religious rights are more important than the rights of others.

  245. Perhaps the most egregious violation of the Establishment Clause, and the one that leads to all the others, is the tax exemption for organized religion. At taxpayers' expense, churches, especially Evangelical and Catholic ones, shamelessly deploy their political clout, using the power of the purse, the pulpit and the press to influence elections. Moreover, many churches operate as corporations, bestowing their bishops and preachers with limousines, private jets, and other accouterments of the extremely wealthy. Time to stop all this. What would Jesus do?

  246. Recommending Karen Armstrong's writings on the issue of religious fundamentalism and its' abuses by powers in our world. Ironically, the issue of social justice has biblical roots, but fundamentalism is not grounded in them - rather fundamentalism betrays it. The anti-abortionists are trying top claim human rights with an approach that writes out the social reality of our person hood. This is problematic for it is merely the projection of their power - instead of the recognition of the relationships that essentially form us. Until we deal squarely with this issue we will keep finding fundamentalism skewing the understanding of our very humanity. Good article!

  247. Dr. Greenhouse correctly notes that the First Amendment forbids Congress ---- as opposed to the state legislatures of Alabama, Missouri, etc. --- shall make no law respecting .... religion. It has been Supreme Court decisions, not the text of the Constitution, that impose this restriction upon state legislatures. Further, abortion rights and prohibition, cross the bounds of religion, and are not unique to evangelist Christianity.

  248. @DMH Have you heard of the 14th Amendment? All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  249. @DMH Actually, it is in fact the text of the Constitution that imposes restrictions on States, as interpreted by the SCT like any constitutional provision. The Bill of Rights applies to the States precisely because of the text of the Constitution — the 14th Amendment.

  250. Face it. The religious are using religion as a means to sidestep laws against certain types of discrimination. They have a magic spell, and I do mean magic, which is called, "A firmly held belief." Keep in mind that, for them, an Atheist by definition, cannot have a belief that can meet that level of integrity. That's specious on the face of it, but how often are they called out on that point? It's high time for more of us to speak out on this issue and push back.

  251. We have in my country, Canada, the same debate. The Québec National Assembly is discussing Bill 21. Which will defined Québec as a secular state and ban any public servant in a position of authority like judges, teachers, police officers, government lawyers wearing religious symbol. Of course all religious organizations (Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs,..) strongly opposed the bill with the support of the Liberal Party and even the left(?) wing party Québec Solidaire. In Canada we do not have the separation of the State and Religion. God is in the Charter of Right. Religious schools are getting money from the State. We have state agencies which accommodate the religious belief of their employees or the customers. For exemple if a customer said that his religion do not allow him to be served by a woman, the state agency will took the woman away and replace her by a man. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, went in a mosque which discriminate against women and praised it calling it a "strength" It just show that every time you introduce religion in the public sphere and the State, the big loosers are always the women at this columns demonstrated.

  252. Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s almost like religions were invented by a bunch of self-serving men.

  253. It is scary how blithely the Establishment Clause is ignored. When a society begins to pander to and prefer a particular religious view, evil ensues. Aquinas thought human life began with quickening, a religion view contrary to the modern day evangelical Christians that human life begins at conception, which is patently ridiculous. Religion is so subjective and so variable over time that is a terrible measure of what's right and wrong for all. Religion can also be taken over by extremists like here in America where they seem to have forgotten that they recently allowed exceptions for rape and incest. While people in Ireland have escaped religion's irrational and oppressive bondage of illegal abortion, America is on the cusp of embracing it again. I actually do not have hope that our rightwing Supreme Court will adhere to the Establishment Clause given its horrendous upholding of Trump's Muslim travel ban. And so I am scared.

  254. @Sherry--Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution are the words "under God" written. It is an entirely secular document. Thomas Jefferson, in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, which wrote to him for clarification on the separation of Church and State, said: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."" He references the establishment clause, states that religious belief is an "opinion" which government cannot base its actions on, and clearly reiterates the separation of Church and State. Religion as a legal basis for any decision has no standing, given that it is a mere opinion.

  255. @Lilou Let's hope the five, or is it six, members of the U.S. Supreme Court agree with you.

  256. Opposition to abortion is not inherently religious. A cursory internet search will yield statistics showing millions of self-identified atheists, nones, and agnostics, as well as several secular pro-life activist groups. It's pretty ridiculous to tell these people that their political positions are unconstitutional because some other people maintain the same political position as a religious tenet.

  257. No judge will strike down the Alabama law because the legislators were members of a religious group or that they said they passed it because of their religious views. Lord I hope slavery was abolished on religious grounds. This piece is based upon nothing and makes no sense. A law school professor would laugh at such an argument because it’s not even a constitutional argument.

  258. Thank you for this piece. I have been steaming about thus issue for some time. As a student of European history, it is clear that the whole origin story of our country is the escape from Europe’s religious wars. It is horrifying to see religious views imposed on an unwilling population. Our religious choices should be personal and private.

  259. “Establishment” is like “Collusion.” Easy to see but hard to prove.

  260. I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it.

  261. I have maintained for some time that the Evangelical Right has lost and/or ignores the importance and meaning of the separation of church and state in its quest to pass anti-abortion laws. Greenhouse, prompted by the legal mind of John Paul Stevens, reminds us of the importance of the establishment clause in the abortion "fight." The subtending struggle is over the establishment of a Christian theocracy (or any theocracy) in a pluralistic America. Think about it for awhile. People of the Jewish faith as far as I know do not pursue a political program against abortion, and yet, they have an abiding faith in the sanctity of life. What are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham really up to??

  262. Hear, hear. There's so much about the evolution of our nation over the past 40 years - from St. Ronnie, to Jesse Helms and his moral majority, which was neither moral nor a majority - that is troubling, but the most troubling is our lurching toward a theocracy, which is so antithetical to our Constitution and our founding principles. The very people who see the impending doom of sharia law around every corner resemble an American Taliban, albeit one with the tyranny of a different set of religious beliefs it works tirelessly to impose on others. It's the single most frightening aspect of American life that is hurtling out of control, with 2/3s of the Supreme Court comprised of devout Catholics who think nothing of imposing their own religious values on others. Establishment Clause? What Establishment Clause? And while it's easy to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the evangelical movement in this country, their efforts have been not just aided and abetted by the Catholics (who, shockingly, haven't turned away from a church that effectively condoned the sexual abuse of children by its leaders), but legitimized by them. Add to this their wholesale rejection of science, and these forces make the prospect of a future America resembling the one depicted in The Handmaid's Tale a very real one indeed. Which brings us to the fundamental question: "Where are the voices of reason?" We were once a nation of thinkers, who took pride in our role in advancing science. What happened?!

  263. Depending in one's age, the "public" display of religious or religious holiday expressions was very widespread, even to the point of nativity scenes. Few were perturbed outside the swank drawing rooms of the cocktail and Sartre set. Or, apparently, the study halls of mid-level law schools. Was anything "established" by this laissez-faire attitude of officialdom? Was anyone of an agnostic, atheist or pagan proclivity prevented from their view or reaction? No. Were their minds fevered? Likely. Just as the minds of the prudish and the cloistered fevered at the publication of Myra Breckenridge. Tough living with liberty, eh?

  264. And aiding and abetting the "religious right" in its quest to establish a state-instituted religion is the complete ignorance of most American citizens to understand just what the "Establishment Clause" means. How many citizens have bothered to read or try to understand the Constitution? Donald Trump doesn't--and never has displayed any interest in the intellectual or moral pursuits that pertain to this document. He is a panderer, purely and simply, to the evangelical "Christians" who wish nothing more than to force religious viewpoints upon the body politic by giving them legal cover. And that the real issue is control--a woman's rights to her own person--is also slyly hidden, buried in the legalistic arguments that the right's proponents argue before the bar. As to the absurdity of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey's "this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," one might also posit this fair question: "When have Alabamians ever held that 'every life is precious'"? What of the life of the mother-to-be?

  265. That many of the staunchest anti abortion opponents are also anti birth control, begs the question: how exactly can you hold both of these positions simultaneously? One answer might be that the real issue is sexuality - specifically women’s sexuality, which appears to threaten some male evangelicals.

  266. Oh ya, don't you just love the 40-foot cross! What sicko would do such a thing? And, to the birth control issue and other men trying to tell another what is right for their reproductive being, I’m living the heartache. For way back in the 60’s the doctor gave my Rh-negative mother birth control, but she, being staunch in her faith, threw the pills in the trash can. Of course, they were a little too late as she had already lost her second child at six weeks, triggering a nervous breakdown. Had already had several miscarriages, including twin boys. Had born a blue baby girl, who was handicapped all of her life, until we lost her fighting breast cancer (no history in immediate family- hmm?). (Everyone should have to go through that fight!) And last night I cried, as my handicapped brother cried and cried because he couldn’t come over to my house on his usual Wednesday night. Another resident was found, by his visiting 80 year-old mother to be sleeping in a bed full of bed bugs. The exterminator claims the worst case of bed bugs he has ever seen. And now, the mother’s home, who has never known bed bugs, needs to be treated also to a tune of $1000+. The mother isn’t wealthy. And if they show up in my house, I will choke somebody. Welcome to the USA - home of the biggest gd hypocrites the Holy One could ever create! (And why does it cost $1000 to get rid of bed bugs?)

  267. And I say this as a Christian: Amen!

  268. I had to chuckle a bit - the NYTimes has, wisely, no favored pics on the topic. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will take your lead on ‘establishing’ ....favorites.

  269. Religious exemptions should never trump individual liberties. Methinks this current SCOTUS lineup is more concerned with enforcing their religious beliefs than actually adhering to the law (balls and strikes, anyone?) or seeing justice carried out.

  270. Nobody loves abortion! But protecting one's wife, daughter, sister from the results of incest and rape make it acceptable to me.

  271. Could a Muslim, Jew, or vegetarian Hindu test Hobby Lobby and related rulings by refusing to pay for health insurance that covers pig-based heart valves for their elderly MALE employees, a key Republican constituency?

  272. That would be fabulous! Or Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing to cover blood transfusions.

  273. Unfortunately, there are too many right-wing catholics on the Court who take their marching orders from the Vatican. Coupled with the hypocritical evangelicals and this is what you get. Soon they'll be lawsuites to allow crosses to be hung in the classrooms of public schools.

  274. Perhaps if those people who push religion like a barker at a carnival gave generously to scientific research, the origin of life might be revealed without the mumbo jumbo and who knows in time what happens after death, the real 800 lb gorilla in their rooms. Until the time arrives when they have that eureka moment, may I suggest that they keep their notions to themselves and their noses out of my private life.

  275. For all Christians that believe abortion should be illegal because life begins at inception (or anytime before actual birth): I think your bible disagrees with you. Genesis 2:7 The Lord God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.