It is hard to believe that people can be this dumb.

Via CMR (you can read the rest there):

Freedom of speech is DOA in the USA folks.

A federal judge has ruled that nobody at a high school graduation can use religious terms like “prayer” and “Amen.”

So, remember that whole thing about “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Well, it looks like judges can do whatever the hell they please.

Fox News reports:

A federal judge has ordered a Texas school district to prohibit public prayer at a high school graduation ceremony.

Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s order against the Medina Valley Independent School District also forbids students from using specific religious words including “prayer” and “amen.”

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by Christa and Danny Schultz. Their son is among those scheduled to participate in Saturday’s graduation ceremony. The judge declared that the Schultz family and their son would “suffer irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the ceremony.


I guess this means they can’t even sing John Lennon’s Imagine.

“Contempt” isn’t strong enough.  Nor does “contempt” include the component of “pity” that wells up alongside the contempt.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in New Evangelization, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Michaelus says:

    The judge’s court is in the city of Saint Anthony. Imagine the “irreparable harm” done to the poor Schultz boy by forcing him to enter a city dedicated to such a holy man. The boy’s mother is named after a certain anointed one from Nazareth. Why didn’t the Judge order her to change her name to “Beelzebubba” I wonder.

    Of course the real problem is that everyone will mutter and complain and then do exactly what the judge tells them to do.

  2. jbas says:

    I wonder if Fr. Z’s coffee mugs are unconstitutional on school campuses.

  3. tealady24 says:

    This kind of thing is very serious, yet, too few see its implications.
    Where are the people and their big mouths when you really need them?
    Put them in an airport and give them a 5-hour delay and listen to their laments! But in school, where freedom and free expression is something these phony educators tout all day long, it is not allowed???!
    And parents go along with this. Oh, that’s right, they’re busy. Texting, emailing, getting a mani and a pedi, dressing their daughters like little street-walkers (to be polite), watching the latest Sex in the City or Housewives of Dallas or something.

    Where is your true AMERICAN spirit? Go there and stand up and pray and say amen, and then do it again, and again, and push this nonsense right back in the faces of those who wish to silence you! They want to scare you with judges and lawsuits. What has happened to critcal thinking in this country?

  4. Andrew says:

    If you read the entire article you’ll notice that they found some ‘reverent’ who agrees with the judge’s decision:
    But the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, hailed the judge’s decision. ‘This is a high school graduation’ he told Fox News Radio. ‘It is not a church service.’

    Herein lies the crux of the matter. Atheists and agnostics are saying basically “hide your religion from public view and we will tolerate you, but in a public forum we must prevail.” To them it is acceptable for a thousand Christians to be slighted as long as one agnostic is pleased. They are trying to establish “non-religion” as “neutral ground”. But there is no such things as religious neutrality. One is for it, or one is against it. And this judge is siding with those who are against it.

  5. Titus says:

    Where is your true AMERICAN spirit? Go there and stand up and pray and say amen

    This, of course, is how the Framers actually intended things like this to work. Hamilton imagined that citizens and the other branches of government would deal with over-reaching federal judges by ignoring them (or cutting off their funding). Thus the judiciary is described as possessing neither “force nor will, but only judgment.” Too bad that hasn’t worked out.

    But there is no such things as religious neutrality. One is for it, or one is against it. And this judge is siding with those who are against it.

    Getting a federal judge to understand this very basic concept would be a massive step forward in American jurisprudence.

  6. benedetta says:

    Amen Fr. Z and other commenters here. After we must have the triumphant singing, through the dictatorship of relativism, of the Imagine (and after we are all forced to pray the imagined dogma of consumerist secularism with a touch of spiritual but never religious), I think that everyone who values their civil rights ought to go out (to the whole world…) openly praying and defying this judge’s order. Proclaim piety for piety’s own sake. Enjoy it. You know, in the affable, ever-friendly, always returning to live another day, persistent, never taking no for an answer, happily going to pray everywhere invited though the spies and the excessively legalistic atheists prowl and look for any opportunity to pounce…in the way of Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., Servant of God. “What are you discussing as you walk along…what sort of things?”

  7. Augustin57 says:

    I think we’re seeing the “fruits” of the influence of the Enlightenment movement, begun about 300 years ago as an attempt to create a society without God.

    The greatest threat to national security in this country is immorality. And you can’t get much more immoral than banning God from public life! If this trend is not reversed, God, through His infinite mercy, will destroy this country and culture. Immortal souls are far more important than governments and cultures. There is no true freedom apart from God.

  8. Mundabor says:

    It is ironic that one of the two people filing the suit is called “Christa”.

    Doesn’t she receive “irreparable damage” from hearing her name?


  9. Mundabor says:

    I don’t think dumbness plays any role btw.

    In my eyes, there is the clear intent of the couple to fight a battle against Christianity under the pretence of the “irreparable damage” (Good Lord!); in the judge, they have found a person with the same ideological orientation and the willingness to pretend that he believes the lie.


  10. Ef-lover says:

    that ruling is just plain dumb — how did this guy ever become a judge

  11. APX says:

    After a political party in Canada wanted to change our national anthem because of the line, “God, keep our land, glorious and free” I am not suprised to read something like this in the US.

    Father Z, one thing I have learned after many years of dealing with people is to never underestimate just how dumb people can be.

  12. Winfield says:

    Truly, this is tyranny.

  13. Peter in Canberra says:

    It is hard to be this dumb. But hearing that a US Federal judge has made a ruling that beggars belief in just about any sphere is not a novelty. Could it be that there is something systemic with the US system of jurisprudence? Do your judges take account of precedent in the same way as British judges? Or is it a function of who/how judges are appointed? Naive Qs perhaps but I ask them nonetheless.

  14. benedetta says:

    This moment I am literally praying for this high school child, young Master Schultz, the child of Mr and Mrs Schultz, and with my prayer I am hoping that God will irreparably and lovingly make His presence known to them, however God chooses as best, and for the entire graduating high school class of Medina Valley Independent School. Atheist temple police, come shackle me and take me away (outstretched hands waiting for the cuffs), and God bless you. Oops, I did it again, tack on 10 years to my sentence.

  15. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Was it last year? I remember reading about a high school graduation which had the same constraint. The young people got together and formulated a plan. I don’t know if I have this exactly right, but the valedictorian, at the podium, sneezed, and the whole graduating class, in unison, said, “God bless you.” Clever as they were, such a ploy should not be needed. Our people have been so dumbed down and brainwashed that they don’t know the Constitution and what it really says and means. An ignorant citizenry will fall to tyrants.

  16. Centristian says:

    This is my favorite part of the ruling:

    “He (the judge) also ordered the school district to remove the terms ‘invocation’ and ‘benediction’ from the graduation program.”

    “These terms shall be replaced with ‘opening remarks’ and ‘closing remarks,’” the judge’s order stated. His ruling also prohibits anyone from saying, “in [a deity’s name] we pray.”

    I’m all for the constitutional separation of church and state in the United States of America, but when judges actually start telling us what words we must use in place of others, we need to acknowledge that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    “These terms shall be replaced with…”? Really? The court is actually telling them what the offending terms shall be replaced with? What if they wanted to replace the terms ‘invocation’ and ‘benediction’ with, say, ‘preliminary words’ and ‘concluding observations’? They could be jailed, that’s what, because they didn’t use the court-mandated language.

    Some of our judges, it would appear, should be sitting behind tables at county fairs rather than federal benches.

  17. irishgirl says:

    This is beyond just ‘contempt’-‘stupid’ is more like it!
    I echo what Ef lover said-‘how did this guy ever become a judge?’
    I remember when I graduated from high school in 1972, there was a prayer said at the ceremony. It was by a minster whose son was in my class. There was no big hue and cry about it as it is today.
    gloriainexcelsis-hey, I like what those kids did! Good for them!

  18. David Homoney says:

    Sadly, the thing that would most resolve this is civil disobedience. They should just do it and that would resolve the issue. That is a good use of civil disobedience. We have no obligation to follow a low that isn’t Constitutional and we shouldn’t here. Texas might be just the place for this action. We shall see.

    @Peter in Canberra – Unfortunately they follow precedence even over what the Constitution states which isn’t the right way to go about law.

  19. Centristian says:

    David Homoney:

    I agree; they ought to ignore the ruling and let that silly judge suffer the ignominy of jailing educators and students for the crime of having an invocation and benediction at their commencement ceremonies, like they do at every other graduation in America.

  20. MissOH says:

    Sheesh. So, if the valedictorian says the pledge of allegience…under God, is that ok, judge. It is freedom of religion not freedom from religion.
    Freedom of speech as long as you watch what you say….

  21. JKnott says:

    Activist judges, ignorant of the Consitiution, put in by the left (predominately Democrats), ruling against the law and ultimately against the first two commandments of love of God and love of neighbor.
    I agree that people should just ignore the stupidity and do it anyway.
    The Mystical Body of Christ will ultimately suffer like Christ, He told us we would.
    One of best books I have ever read is: “In the Likeness of Christ” by the late Fr. Edward Leen

    In Norway I think, a priest recently outraged everyone by giving a blessing to the graduates at the end of their ceremony which happened to be taking place in a Catholic church. He said he did it because he is a priest and it only meant he was wishing them “prosperity”……. Sigh!!!

  22. Augustin57 says:

    The famous German statesman, Konrad Adenauer, once said, “In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity.”

  23. MikeM says:

    Amen? You can’t even say that? Are we going to ban all words commonly used in worship? Or is it words with hebrew roots?

    Is “alleluia” also banned?

    Were teachers who openly supported African debt relief a few years ago in violation of the law if they used the word “jubilee”?

    Perhaps we should ban public universities from having their professors take a “sabbatical.”

    Since I’m not at a public school graduation, I guess I can still say “woe to this once great nation.”

    Oy vey.

  24. ejcmartin says:

    Growing up my father was an executive in the oil industry. Everything from the food on the table to my college education depended on “big oil”. If my high school valedictorian was prepared to make a speach on climate change and the evils big oil I undoubtedly would have “suffered irreparable harm”. I wonder if I could have got an injuction? You don’t think there would be a double standard do you?

  25. APX says:

    Amen? You can’t even say that?
    I guess not, but what’s stopping people from saying, “Aww, men!”? ;-)

    But seriously, do they not having something better to waste tax payers’ money on other than outlandish court rulings? Wasn’t there a graduation a couple years ago where people were jailed for clapping??

  26. kneeler says:

    Clearly a 1st Amendment issue, among other things. I didn’t know in this country you could actually mandate what comes out of someones mouth, and then abuse your authority to scare people into compliance (“suffer irreparable harm”).

  27. AnAmericanMother says:

    He’s a Clinton appointee. Has been a judge for a long, long time, in first the state and then the federal system. A brief period in the private practice of law before that. Good academic record.

    Obviously has a bad case of “black robe disease”.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    Several emergency appeals have been filed, by the way – by the valedictorian (a Catholic), the school district, and the Texas AG.

    A lot depends on which panel they draw in the Fifth Circuit. There are some screaming liberals who see themselves as super-legislators, and some actual judges who follow law and precedent. We shall see.

  29. mibethda says:

    Assuming that the community is overwhelminly opposed to this ruling, perhaps the best strategy would be for all of the speakers at the commencement to devote their remarks exclusively to a condemnation of judicial tyranny in applying a distorted interpretation to the First Amendment. As political speech, it would not run afoul of the order, would enjoy virtually absolute protection, and yet would discomfort the plaintiffs and those who have used them to bring the suit – not to mention the Judge – at least as much as would a brief prayer or invocation of the Name that cannot be spoken.

  30. Bob says:

    The judge declared that the Schultz family and their son would “suffer irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the ceremony.

    Fr. Z., I just laughed when I read this. Contempt and pity don’t seem appropriate to me. I understand the seriousness of the ruling and the seriousness of Satan’s interference in the world. But this type of stupidity deserves laughter.

  31. KAS says:

    If the words “prayer” and “Amen” are forbidden then the ideal student response would be to chant both words loudly–over and over and over–“We will not be silenced–pray AMEN!” is another good one.

    Where did the spirit go? Have the school systems done such a good job oppressing the individuality and ability to think independently that the students are incapable of a good solid rebellion against the injustice?


  32. Gail F says:

    Please read the facts of this case. They are more complex and, in some ways, more disturbing than the version going around. The judge did NOT say that people couldn’t use those words and phrases, he said that they could use them only in expressing a personal belief and not in a call for other people to behave and/or believe a certain way. It was the latter, he ruled, that would irrevocably harm the atheist family. Outrage over what the judge did not actually say won’t help anyone. I think the best response is vigorous, vocal, persistent personal prayer at the graduation ceremony — see the post I wrote for the Son Rise Morning Show.

  33. Gail F says:

    To clarify: I think that is the best solution because I think that what the ruling is actually trying to do, as opposed to what it explicitly says, is get people to shut up about prayer in the public square. So I think the best response is to pray more, and more loudly, in the way that the judge says is okay and see what happens next. Saying “God bless you” to a sneeze from the valedictorian may be fun at the time, but we need to worry about the future and other venues. Force the hand of those who want to shut people up through rules and laws, and make them admit they want to shut people up, period.

  34. Titus says:

    Could it be that there is something systemic with the US system of jurisprudence? Do your judges take account of precedent in the same way as British judges?

    American judges do take account of precedent, much like English judges, and trial-court judges are generally bound by the numerous precedents of the Supreme Court and the judge’s local Court of Appeals. There are many people—apparently including this judge—who think that those precedents mandate this kind of outcome.

    The judge declared that the Schultz family and their son would “suffer irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the ceremony.

    Fr. Z., I just laughed when I read this. Contempt and pity don’t seem appropriate to me. I understand the seriousness of the ruling and the seriousness of Satan’s interference in the world. But this type of stupidity deserves laughter.

    “Irreparable harm” is a legal term of art, and it really oughtn’t to be used in news articles. It just means that the harm is of a kind that the law regards as non-compensable by monetary means. That in and of itself is the subject of an extensive body of law. As a purely legal matter, listening to someone else’s prayer probably isn’t actually “irreparable” by that standard, but it’s not for the reasons you might generally think based on the phrase itself.

    he judge did NOT say that people couldn’t use those words and phrases, he said that they could use them only in expressing a personal belief and not in a call for other people to behave and/or believe a certain way.

    Entirely beside the point. The Constitution governs what the government does, not what individuals do. There’s no basis whatsoever in a Constitutional case for a federal judge to give any instruction to private individuals (such as students) about what they can say outside of a federal courthouse. It’s one thing for the judge to issue an injunction governing the actions of the school’s teachers and administrators, but the news at least (I’m not looking up the actual order) very much makes it look as if the injunction merely uses the facade of being directed at administrators to control the acts of students. A student speaker ought to be able to stand up and tell the judge to pound sand: the court would have a hard time sustaining a contempt order against a school official based on the act of a third party.

  35. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Atheism: n, The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be praying in a public space.

    Unless the speaker is a public official acting in a public manner, there is no state action that rises to the level of constitutional entanglement between Church & State. Individual student speakers should be able to speak their minds – even to the point of encouraging others to pray.

    Furthermore, there is no right to be protected from prayer by individuals in a public space. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 21-22 (1971) is quite informative on this issue:

    [T]he mere presumed presence of unwitting listeners or viewers does not serve automatically to justify curtailing all speech capable of giving offense. See, e. g., Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U.S. 415 (1971). . . . . we have at the same time consistently stressed that “we are often `captives’ outside the sanctuary of the home and subject to objectionable speech.” Id., at 738. The ability of government, consonant with the Constitution, to shut off discourse solely to protect others from hearing it is, in other words, dependent upon a showing that substantial privacy interests are being invaded in an essentially intolerable manner. Any broader view of this authority would effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.

    Those in the Los Angeles courthouse could effectively avoid further bombardment of their sensibilities simply by averting their eyes. And, while it may be that one has a more substantial claim to a recognizable privacy interest when walking through a courthouse corridor than, for example, strolling through Central Park, surely it is nothing like the interest in being free from unwanted expression in the confines of one’s own home.

    Welcome to the world of the naked public sphere.

  36. Martial Artist says:

    Father Z.,

    I think, rather than contempt, the appropriate response would be either revulsion or disgust, or perhaps even both.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  37. moon1234 says:

    Isn’t the Judge, by silencing the speech of some or forcing speech upon the school, in essence establishing a State religion of atheism? Atheism is not just the disbelief in a supernatural creator, it is the active evangelization of those who adhere to atheism to force their religion on all others.

    So in essence this judge, by his ruling and forced speech, has established a state religion of atheism.

    This judged needs to be disbarred.

  38. Clinton says:

    It is interesting to reflect on the solicitude that Judge Biery has shown for the delicate
    sensibilities of the Schultz family, whose child would have suffered irreparable harm at the mere mention of the words ‘prayer’, ‘Amen’, or ‘benediction’.

    I’m trying to reconcile Judge Biery’s evident belief that the right of one party not to find
    himself exposed to religious views contrary to his own supersedes the constitutional rights
    of those around him to free speech and the free exercise of their religion. I’m especially
    baffled because of the recent Supreme Court ruling that the families of soldiers killed in
    our mideast wars have no such protection from Rev. Phelp’s congregation that protests
    at military funerals. Is it that the psyches of atheists are simply more fragile than those of
    the religious, and thus easier to irreparably harm? Or is it that some people (atheists) are
    more equal than others (the rest of us)?

  39. Gaz says:

    So, no singing of the 4th verse of the Star Spangled Banner then?

  40. AnAmericanMother says:

    Hmmm. Trying to post good news without result. The Fifth Circuit has slapped this judge down in an expedited order.

    I’ll leave the link to Fox out of the post, maybe it will post then.

  41. AnAmericanMother says:

    There, that’s better! Here’s the ruling:

    Before DAVIS, SMITH and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
    On this incomplete record at this preliminary injunction stage of the case, we are not persuaded that plaintiffs have shown that they are substantially likely to prevail on the merits, particularly on the issue that the individual prayers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation are, in fact, school sponsored. We also observe in particular that the plaintiffs’ motion may be rooted at least in part in circumstances that no longer exist. For example, the school has apparently abandoned including the words “invocation” and “benediction” on the program. The motion also did not expressly address the involvement of the valedictorian in the graduation ceremony.
    IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the emergency motion of the appellants to dissolve the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is GRANTED; accordingly the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction entered by the district court are DISSOLVED, and the case is REMANDED to the district court for possible further proceedings.
    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the opposed motion of Angela Hildenbrand to intervene is DENIED without prejudice. She is hereby permitted to proceed as amicus curiae.
    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the opposed motion of Angela Hildenbrand for relieffrom temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is DENIED as moot.

    Case: 11-50486 Document: 00511498424 Page: 2 Date Filed: 06/03/

  42. JKnott says:

    “The judge declared that the Schultz family and their son would “suffer irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the ceremony.”
    What kind of irreparable harm?
    Was the type of “irreparable harm” actually defined in the case? Should the boy be admitted for psychiatric evaluation?
    Should the parents of the child first teach little Schultzy about critical thinking and the notion of free will?

  43. dontex says:

    Good news – the ruling has been overturned by the Appeals Court (6-3-11).

  44. Charles E Flynn says:

    @JKnott 3 June 2011 at 10:22 am:

    I wonder if the Vulcan salute “Live long and prosper” is also prohibited, and if it matters whether a priest gives it.

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