Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the constitutionality of prayer before legislative bodies in Town of Greece v. Galloway. Although complainants Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens argued that the prayers before town council meetings in Greece, NY—led by invariably Christian chaplains —violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the court’s conservatives found that they served a largely ceremonial purpose. I mean “they” the prayers, not “they” the court’s conservatives—one of whom, Clarence Thomas, also opined that the First Amendment “probably prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion.” That’s not even the marquee quote from this case, though. The big one is from Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, and it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading. Primary text after the jump.
When I worked in the East Village, there was a homeless man on Avenue A who would recite the full text of “The Raven” for a dollar. The cornerstones of his operation were that A) it also cost a dollar to make him stop, and B) he was crazy. In addition to being about six foot six, he wore a feather sticking straight up out of his hair and was constantly trying to hug people. I once saw him kick a teenage boy in the testicles so hard that both his feet lifted off the ground. The Raven Guy was a real fixture, and like all crazy people he considered me his friend. One evening, as I was engaged in a delicate negotiation with a young woman re: the future of our relationship, he came charging across the street at us. “You listen to Dan,” he said, looming. “Dan knows what he’s doing.” She broke up with me immediately. I thought nothing like that would ever happen to me again, but this morning I learned that Pat Robertson supports the legalization of marijuana.