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Major Court Ruling: Our Newfound Freedom of Religion

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By Judge John Marshall Meisburg, Jr., 9-1-23

The Supreme Court recently issued a major decision in the case of Bremerton v. Kennedy. In this case, the High Court ruled that Coach Kennedy had a right to kneel and say a private prayer on the high school football field after a game.  In so ruling, the Court overruled the longstanding Lemon v. Kurtzman test for religious activity in government that had prevailed for many years. 

The Court established a new legal test for the First Amendment.  It said that if the government action in question was consistent with our history and tradition as a country then it is Constitutional, and does not violate the so-called “separation of church and state.” In my view, this is a very consequential decision which gives Americans more freedom of religion than we have had in 50 years. 

We lost a lot of freedom in the 1960’s when the Supreme Court took the Bible and prayer out of our schools and said that the Ten Commandments could not be posted. That has resulted in a generation of Godless young people that has seriously damaged our nation. 

Now, all of that may soon change.  I believe that under the Kennedy decision, it will be held to be Constitutional to post the Ten Commandments in our public schools.  The Ten Commandments were an important part of the New England Primer used in the schools of America until 1920. They appear on the very walls of the Supreme Court. The Ten Commandments are the basis for all of our laws and our Judeo Christian values that made America great. 

It is clear that the Ten Commandments are an important part of our history and tradition as a country, the new legal test. Posting them in our schools will teach our young people to honor God and the rights of other people, and should improve school discipline, which is sorely needed. Laws requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in our schools are now being drafted in Florida and Texas.  Let us pray that these laws are adopted as soon as possible!

John Marshall Meisburg Jr. is a retired judge residing in Fernandina Beach.

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