The Lemon Test Strikes Again!

Friday, January 13, AD 2012


Senior Federal District Judge Ronald Lagueux, a 1986 Reagan appointee, has ordered the Cranston High School in Cranston, Rhode Island to remove a mural, pictured above, depicting a school prayer.  The mural had been in the school since 1963.  The suit, as is usual in these modern iconoclastic cases, was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of an atheist student and her father, Mark Ahlquist.  Jessica Ahlquist, the 16 year old atheist who brought the suit, has become an atheist celeb on atheist sites on the internet.  She doesn’t think much of the Catholic Church, is indeed a fallen away Catholic, and Cranston is 90% Catholic, so this suit was her way, actually I suspect more her father’s way, to poke a stick in the eye of local Catholics.  Go here to read the opinion.  Judge Lagueux’s decision is notable for its overall reliance on the Lemon test, and I will leave to Justice Scalia below to set forth my views of that court created doctrine.

In few areas of the law has the Constitution been more twisted and deformed than in the area of First Amendment allowance of religious expression in schools.  Justice Scalia gave a useful summary in 1993 in the Lamb’s Chapel v. Moriches Union Free School District case:

As to the Court’s invocation of the Lemon test: Like some ghoul in a late night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening thelittle children and school attorneys of Center Moriches Union Free School District.

Continue reading...

18 Responses to The Lemon Test Strikes Again!

  • Scalia’s opinion here is one of my favorites, along with his dissent in Casey. The sarcasm just drips, but it’s well-merited. It’s hard to come up with a more asinine legal doctrine than the Lemon Test. That it survives to this day is both astounding and revolting.

  • It is a pity they did not take down the Heavenly Father two words, replaccew it with a suggestion that the viewer take a moment of silence. That would have ruled out the “Christian” Prayer distraction. It was also sad to see the pro-prayer people be so insulting and judgmental to the anti-prayer crowd but delightful to see the pro-prayer people rebuke them. The whole argument from Lemon was sad, I thought the “Supremes” had abondoned that test outright as I followed the First Amendment dicussions. The separate Church/State argument is being thrown up in Europe now a lot. There is a brewing cultural war in the UK as the PM called for more ethcs in public life recently, echoing one presumes the talks B XV1 gave on the occcasion of his State visit in 2010 . In asking for a return to same, HH repeated that call in an extremely well-crafted talk in his more recent State visit to Germany which was very well received by the Bundestag. So tragic that the simple intent of the Founders was to avoid an Established Church as Mr Jefferson had to deal with first in Virginia. Now an anti-religion former Catholic female, now a high schooler, wins a case for the ACLU to promote her anti-religion agenda iN a case that was supposedly decided to prevent a pro-faith bias by the school. The judge also spelled “mantle” as mantel, easy error to make, in my view not as egregious as his “Lemon” decision, pun intended!

  • The establishment clause should not even apply to local schools. There is no way that one can justify the incorporation of the establishment clause using “due process” or “privileges and immunities.”

  • I thought the principle was that since the achool board and teachers were “goverment” they were “establishing” religion. It makes no sense as the Founders named the CREATOR in the Preamble and the coins have in God we Trust. That one CA Federal Court decided against the Pledge- since it has UNDER GOD in it, for grade schools, but it never went anywhere as the father did not have custody of his daughter who brought the case.

  • Actually, I wouldn’t want my Catholic children saying this “power of positive thinking” kind of prayer. We Catholics always pray “through Christ our Lord,” which this prayer does not. We Catholics pray “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” which this prayer does not. No disrespect intended to those of any other religion. I want my kids growing up to pray like Catholics pray. I don’t want the public school teaching them another way of praying.

  • “Actually, I wouldn’t want my Catholic children saying this “power of positive thinking” kind of prayer.”

    Then vote that way at local schoolboard elections. My problem is having Federal judges acting as “prayer police” in schools because of some sort of constitutional prohibition of prayers in public schools which simply does not exist from the text of the document. We started down this path of course largely because of the influence of Justice Hugo Black, an anti-Catholic bigot, who feared the influence of the Church.

  • Harold,

    I agree about praying in Jesus name and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I find nothing wrong in the petitions raised to God our Father in this prayer. I wish I had those positive thinking characteristics and practiced them consistently and always. Sadly, I fail.

  • An interesting look at the Catholic Church and the US Supreme Court by Professor James Hitchcock:

  • Thats a very nice prayer, I wish it were hanging in my son’s school. I think I won’t comment on the father bringing this case, my blood pressure is raised enough.

  • Indeed Jasper. I have nothing but sympathy for the 16 year old girl who I doubt is mature enough to understand the issues involved.

  • When she is in front of God, as well as her father, they can point out the great work they did in getting a prayer off a school wall. Hopefully they will go on and on about how injurious it was for her to glance at it in the hall way. How she had a right not to look at it and deny all of the other children the any chance of seeing a prayer without any reference to God in it. How wishing good will among classmates is harmful and wanting to do your best and yet show grace when things don’t go your way is restricting and burdensome. Oh, how triumphant they were to have the court agree with them. Hopefully she is not showing too much glee as she walks the school hallway.

  • One presumes at age 16 “God is not finished with her yet” which is true for all of us at any age whether Catholic or atheist or agnostic. She may end up as many former abortionists do, get a profound conversion experience and become a First Aamendment lawyer and join in suits against the more expreme ACLU positions. That makes more sense to me than trying as so many of the pro-prayer people did, to question her standing before the Last Judgmen in their un-Christian defence of a prayer that was neutral and very positive, but was judged to be the establishment of a religion by mentioning Heavenly Father. As I recall, “GOD BLESS THIS HONOURABLE COURT” is a ritual at the Supreme Court itself. Wonder if a future Hugo Black will find that un-constitutional as well as the daily prayer in Congress and on and on.

  • Atheists are the only Americans that are allowed to use laws to advance their religious beliefs.

  • Jessica Ahlquist, the 16 year old atheist who brought the suit, has become an atheist celeb on atheist sites on the internet.

    I think we have an early candidate for TIME’s person of the year.

  • Any person who repudiates our founding principles set forth in The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, repudiates his own unalienable civil rights. When one person is denied civil rights, all persons are denied civil rights. Therefore, the atheist, denying all unalienable rights endowed by our Creator, denies his own unalienable rights endowed by our CREATOR and has forfeit his legal standing in a court of law. Yes, a person is free to be an atheist, but the atheist is not free to deny any other person’s right to free expression of his response to the gift of Faith from God.

  • When an atheist says: “I AM an atheist”, the atheist uses God’s name: “I AM”, in vain and contradicts himself. Jesus said: “My Father gives testimony to me and my works give testimony to me.” two witnesses establish a judicial fact.

  • Clever try Mary de Voe but I do not think it applies. What does apply however is why and how does he or any atheist that he/she explain how anyone can say ” I am?”.Just how did I get to have “is-ness,” and from whence and is there an end to it here or later! Normal human beings in quiet moments and waking up at night and in sickness ask those questions. That is why we pray for those who have not experrienced God, they have found Him in different ways but not “seen” Him yet, that takes Faith, not intelligence and education by themselves.