Greenhouse Follies

An uncharacteristically lively screed from the normally somnambulistic Linda Greenhouse who has done a very good job for a very long time keeping the goings on at the SCOTUS excruciatingly boring to the general public.

Linda is especially exercised about the recent Town of Greece case, which held that prayers before public meetings didn’t offend the constitution’s “establishment of religion” clause:

This is an opinion column, and here is my opinion: the court’s majority is driving it into dangerous territory…setting an agenda that mimics a Republican Party platform…Opening the doors to greater public expression and observance of religion is another central part of the Roberts court’s project…The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had found the steady diet of Christian prayer at town board meetings to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion…Since it was obvious that the majority’s goal was to overturn the Second Circuit’s decision, it was no great surprise that the 5-to-4 opinion did so…Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the court was startling nonetheless for its obliviousness to the impact that sectarian prayers can have on those citizens for whom prayer before a government meeting is not “a benign acknowledgment of religion’s role in society” (to quote the opinion) but an affront…This from a justice who in his majority opinion in a Florida death penalty case on Tuesday emphasized the right of a convicted murderer to be treated with “dignity” by having his intellectual deficit assessed meaningfully rather than mechanically…I was left to wonder about the dignity of the two women who sued Greece, N.Y., on the claim that the price of conducting their business with the town board should not include having to listen to Christian prayers…The country didn’t need to have the religious culture wars reignited, but thanks to the court, that’s where we now are.


Let’s just say to start with that analogizing a couple of old women complaining about some prayer or other at some public meeting or other to someone complaining that he doesn’t want to be literally tortured to death at his execution reveals a strange sense of proportion:  concerns about “dignity” in the one situation are hardly comparable to the other.

But it also strikes me that Greenhouse is so far behind the curve, politically speaking.  She is obsessed with yesterday’s issues, like public prayer.  And it’s ironic that she accuses the Supreme Court of political orientation in supposedly “reigniting” the religious culture wars, inasmuch as to the extent we’ve had any religious culture wars they were almost entirely the product of Supreme Court meddling in the first place.

Honestly, I don’t get the hyper-sensitivity some people have to public prayer.  In many ways I find most public prayers objectionable for all kinds of reasons but I don’t see any constitutional problems with them. And all the Supreme Court jurisprudence to the contrary has always struck me as a product of the usual pseudo-intellectual anti-religious snobbery so common among the American ruling class.

But that’s just me.  I’m no Linda Greenhouse. 

I’m actually glad she got up on her high horse a bit.  As she notes, she can have opinions, too, and I’m glad to know what they are, agree or disagree.  But she’d be doing her job and serving the public a lot better if she used her megaphone about far more important issues, such as whether summary judgment as currently practiced violates the 7th amendment or what in the hell “due process” means for a criminal defendant, because we’ve gotten very confused about those things on her watch.

Well, not us here at Lawyers on Strike, of course.  Just everyone else, it seems.



Filed under Media incompetence/bias

2 responses to “Greenhouse Follies

  1. kjkrug2013

    Wow. I’m usually right in there with you, JMRJ, but this one section plucked from a column about the Roberts Court’s political overreach, given of an example of the same, gave me a very different sense of what Greenhouse’s column would be about until I read the column itself.

    Obviously, you were never a teenager forced to go sit in the principal’s office every day in lieu of saying the Lord’s Prayer at a public high school in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1974-77. They also sent out a ballot asking if we wanted separate proms for the Blacks and the Whites. All of it unconstitutional at the time. Being forced to pray to another person’s God/fairy tale magical being against your will is a very big deal. Because the people making you do it just know God is on their side, and he would want Blacks to have a prom separate and apart from God’s chosen White people.

    Karyl Krug, M.A., J.D., Esq., B.F.D.

    Sent from my iPad



    • Well, we don’t have to agree on everything, right?

      Even so you should be fair. No one was talking about forcing anyone to pray. And I certainly don’t think that concerns about the dignity of a person we’re going to execute are in the same ball park as concerns about the dignity people who are offended when there’s some kind of public prayer, which is not to say that both aren’t entitled to some measure of dignity.

      I’m not defending anything that went on in Louisiana in the 1970’s either. All sounds pretty wrong to me.

      Finally, the politicization courts are subject to is a lot more harmful when it takes the form of, say, toadying to law enforcement and their unions. I don’t see the religious right or the secular left as being anywhere near comparable in terms of how dangerous to individual freedom they are.

      But, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. It’s one of those things that seems obvious to me but where I could be suffering from some latent bias I’m not aware of.


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