Tag archives: Donald Sterling

Justice Kennedy’s Reminder: Some Americans Just Need to Grow Up

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 5, 2014

In the majority opinion he issued today on public prayer, Justice Anthony Kennedy made a number of arguments with serious implications for religious liberty in the United States.

His opinion and the coincident opinions of Justices Alito and Thomas and the dissenting opinions by Justices Breyer and Kagan all deserve close scrutiny.  Religious liberty is the foundation of all other liberties, and any time the Supreme Court speaks about it, all Americans should listen carefully.

With that said, there is a particularly noteworthy thread of argument woven throughout Justice Kennedy’s opinion.  Several times, he alludes to a fact that needs to be expressed more often, both in our courts and everyday life: Mature adults should act that way.

Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith,” he argues. In other words, rather than wear your religious beliefs and cultural mores like touch-sensitive antennae, act enough like an adult that you don’t take offense unnecessarily or easily.

With respect to public prayer, Justice Kennedy writes:

… the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition and understand that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens, not to afford government an opportunity to proselytize or force truant constituents into the pews … That many appreciate these acknowledgments of the divine in our public institutions does not suggest that those who disagree are compelled to join the expression or approve of its content.

In other words, respect, decency, civility, and self-control are assumed in a nation that is not only diverse in its religious composition (although the overwhelming majority profess some form of Christian faith) but also composed of self-governing men and women who have the common sense not to take offense too readily.

Kennedy continues:

In their declarations in the trial court, respondents (those who filed suit against the Greece council’s permission of sectarian prayer) stated that the prayers gave them offense and made them feel excluded and disrespected.  Offense, however, does not equate to coercion.  Adults often encounter speech that they find disagreeable; and an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront rom the expression of contrary religious views in a legislative forum, especially where, as here (Greece, New York), any member of the public is welcome in turn to offer an invocation reflecting his or her own convictions.

Hear a religious or political comment you don’t like? Justice Kennedy is saying that unless it is personal, disrespectful, or invasive, deal with it: That’s part of being an adult.

Over-dramatization and sensational hand-wringing derive from our media-driven fascination with the morally lurid, even when that luridness is quite isolated.  Consider the responses to the recent repulsive racial comments of Donald Sterling, owner of the Clippers professional basketball team. They were disgusting, but they do not demand an exaggerated inflation of the presence of racism in America.  Commenting on the pervasiveness of racism in light of the Sterling affair, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, “More whites believe in ghosts than they do in racism”.

Put another way, does racism exist?  Sure.  But is it representative or preponderant or something about which to be panicked?  No.  Abdul-Jabbar is calling on his fellow Americans not to get carried away, not to magnify a relative anomaly into a

looming crisis.

In the same way, hearing “Jesus” or “the cross of Christ” in a prayer shouldn’t set peoples’ teeth on edge any more than watching a liberal Democrat opine on network television should upset a conservative Republican: You might disagree with the content, but you shouldn’t try to stifle the right of someone to express a profoundly-held belief or conviction as long as it is expressed with adequate civility and courtesy.

Citing Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, Justice Kenney argues that “the Constitution does not guarantee citizens a right entirely to avoid ideas with which they disagree.”  And as to prayer at public or government-related events, he concludes:

Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy.  And should they remain, their quiet acquiescence will not, in light of our traditions, be interpreted as an agreement with the words or ideas expressed.  Neither choice represents an unconstitutional imposition as to mature adults, who “presumably” are “not readily susceptible to religious indoctrination or peer pressure” (Marsh, 1983).

Justice Kennedy’s ruling is a welcome reminder that some of our fellow citizens just need to grow up.  Whether, in our era of political correctness and ready woundedness, they will or not is a different question.

In the Fight for Life: NAACP v. Radiance Foundation

by Lela Mayfield

May 1, 2014

This week, the media have been focused on Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his recent (highly racist) remarks caught on tape by his girlfriend. As the account goes, Sterling is now banned for life from the NBA and may have his ownership of the team revoked.

Until this unseemly incident, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) planned to award Sterling with the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” This is an interesting situation for two reasons; according to a recent Time Magazine interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who used to work for Sterling) this rant was actually nothing new for him, and if Sterling has indeed had a history of vocalizing his racism, then why would the NAACP award this man with a “Lifetime Achievement Award?”  Is it really possible that no one else on the award committee knew of his history of distasteful rhetoric?

The other reason that this is quite an intriguing scenario is that the NAACP is ensnared in another situation that has not seen the light of day in the mainstream media. I’m referring to the lawsuit brought by the NAACP against the Radiance Foundation.

The Radiance Foundation is a Christian pro-life organization founded and run by Ryan and Bethany Bomberger. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about not only abortion, but the importance of fathers and adoption and also to show the disproportionate trends of abortion in the black community and its lasting impacts.

The Real Controversy…

Last year, Ryan Bomberger wrote an article detailing the support that the NAACP has given to Planned Parenthood. In the article he parodied the NAACP acronym by saying the acronym should stand for the National Association for the Abortion of Colored People. Given the NAACP’s avid support for and laud of Planned Parenthood, he’s not incorrect. After receiving a Google alert about the article, the NAACP then sued Bomberger (who is also black) for misleading the public and trademark infringement. The 4th Circuit judge has ruled in favor of the NAACP.

The Irony…

How can the NAACP justify almost giving an award to a man who has had a history of racism, but sue a man who is only seeking to defend and support millions of black children in the womb? But I suppose this really shouldn’t come as a surprise given the NAACP’s history of praise for an organization (Planned Parenthood) completely anathema to the main purpose of the Association, the Advancement of Colored People. One really starts to wonder the motives of the NAACP. Contemplating giving an award to a known racist, and praising an organization started by a known eugenicist, while then suing a man who seeks to defend the lives of millions of black children, is all quite confusing and contrary to the initial purpose of the NAACP.  What would Dr. King say today? It makes little sense for a group created to assist and support people of color to attack a pro-life ministry working to save the lives of millions of these very same people. 

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