Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

28

82). No legislator has ever even joined the chaplain's church as a result of his morning invocations (Dep. 49).

In sum, the opening prayers may well acknowledge religion, but they do not advance religion (Tr. 105-106). Rather, their primary effect is simply to accomplish the secular purpose of bringing the legislature to order in a ceremonial and traditional manner that fosters a suitably solemn atmosphere for the conduct of important legislative business (Tr. 96, 111-113, 121-123). It is of no constitutional consequence that the opening prayers might be perceived by some observers to aid religion in a general way (see Tr. 20, 107), for "an indirect and inci. dental effect beneficial to religious institutions has never been thought a sufficient defect to warrant the invalidation of a state law.Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, supra, 413 U.S. at 775. See also, e.g., McGowan v. Maryland, supra (Sunday Closing Laws sustained even though they foster respect for religious observances and facilitate attendance at church); Walz v. Tax Commissioner, supra (church property tax exemptions sustained notwithstanding obvious financial benefit to religious organizations); Everson V. Board of Education, supra (reimbursement for children's bus fares sustained despite indirect aid to church schools).10

3. Excessive Entanglement. With respect to the third prong of the Lemon test, the district court held that “the saying of the prayers alone entangles the state in religious affairs only nominally. The entanglement is not excessive” (Pet. App. 18). The trial record reflects that the chaplain's invocations are brief (Tr, '11, 102) and that the Legislature exercises no control or influence whatsoever over their content (Tr. 65-69; Dep. 4). Further

10 The irrelevance of the fact that a single denomination has been represented in the chaplaincy over a long period of time has already been discussed and need not be repeated. See pages 16-18, 24-25, supra. The main point is that the invocations are nondenominational; there is thus no reason for the Nebraska Legislature to show concern for denominational variety in selecting its chaplain.

29

more, the process for appointing a chaplain is the same as for other legislative officers and is usually a matter of no particular concern (Tr. 115-117, 120-121). Only once, so far as the record reflects, was there any dispute or debate over the selection of a chaplain, and some of that debate was generated by the objections of respondent Chambers himself (Tr. 29-30, 83-85, 117-120). In any event, the matter was quickly resolved by vote on the Senate floor; Senator Chambers' objections were rejected and Chaplain Palmer was retained (Tr. 120).

Thus, the observations of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Colo are equally applicable here (392 N.E.2d at 1200-1201, quoting Lemon v. Kurtzman, supra, 403 U.S. at 622):

There is no evidence that a great degree of government entanglement with religion is occasioned by the employment of legislative chaplains. The prayers offered are brief, the content unsupervised by the State, and attendance completely voluntary. There is no evidence that the State has become embroiled in any difficult decisions about which religions are to be represented or what sorts of invocations are to be offered.(21] As far as the record reveals, there is

20 The only "divisiveness” over the chaplaincy suggested by the record is that respondent Chambers is opposed to that legislative office and has raised his objections through general public announcement (Tr. 6-7, 77), through parliamentary maneuvers (Tr. 7, 119. 120), and through this lawsuit (Tr. 4-36). Apart from Senator Chambers' objections, the record reflects only that the chaplain indirectly heard that one senator objected to the explicit Christian tone of a prayer offered by a guest chaplain (Tr. 77).

21 As we have demonstrated, the chaplain's formal religious affiliation is irrelevant to fulfillment of his secular duties. Under these circumstances, the sort of excessive concern for denomina. tional variety displayed by the court of appeals is, we suggest, far more likely to lead to impermissible governmental entanglement with religion than the current practice of retaining one chaplain, of whatever denomination, for as long as he properly performs his duties (see page 24, supra). Any requirement for periodic de

30

not the slightest hint that the practice of employing legislative chaplains has ever created any of the political divisiveness which "was one of the principal evils against which the First Amendment was in

tended to protect. Nevertheless, the Eighth Circuit again summarily rejected the district court's conclusion and announced that the Nebraska chaplaincy practice "engenders serious political division along religious lines. The result is the type of excessive entanglement which must be avoided under the First Amendment” (Pet. App. 37). The main reason for the court of appeals' conclusion on excessive entanglement appears to be the use of "state monies to compensate the same minister for sixteen years" (ibid.). We have already answered the appellate court's mistaken views on lengthy tenure and denominational variety (see pages 16-18, 24-25, supra), and we will now address the question of compensation.2

nominational changes, for example, would likely involve the legislature in such matters as interviewing various candidates about their religious beliefs or examining the content of their prayers. No such difficulties are engendered by the current practice.

22 Although the district court, unlike the court of appeals, treated the salary question as an entirely separate matter, its opinion reflects agreement with the Eighth Circuit's view that payment of compensation to the chaplain is impermissible under the circumstances of this case (Pet. App. 18-21). The district court, how.. ever, held that the other elements of the Nebraska chaplaincy practice are constitutionally permissible under the three-part test, whereas the Eighth Circuit neid that all elements of the practice, "taken as a whole," are unconstitutional (Pct. App. 37). We note our disagreement with the court of appcals' indivisible approach to the issues presented. Although the various elements of the chaplaincy practice are obviously related, it makes no sense to hold that the entire practice must fail if, for example, the printing of prayer books is thought to be constitutionally infirm. In any event, as previously noted (see note 11, supra), Nebraska did not appeal the district court's injunction against the printing of prayer books. Thus, the court of appeals surely erred when it included as part of the practice "taken as a whole" a feature no longer in issue,

21-618 0-83--54

31

There is no inherent constitutional prohibition against government payments to religious figures or institutions. As explained by Justice Blackmun in his plurality opinion announcing the judgment of the Court in Roemer v. Board of Public Works, 426 U.S 736, 746 (1976):

It long has been established, for example, that the State may send a cleric, indeed even a clerical order, to perform a wholly secular task. In Bradfield v. Roberts, 175 U.S. 291 (1899), the Court upheld the extension of public aid to a corporation which, although composed entirely of members of a Roman Catholic sisterhood acting "under the auspices of said church," id., at 297, was limited by its corporate charter to the secular purpose of operating a chari

table hospital. Thus, in Justice Blackmun's words, Bradfield dispels any notion that a religious person can never be in the State's pay for a secular purpose" (426 U.S. at 746; footnote omitted) (plurality opinion). Here, the State of Nebraska is merely paying a salary to one of its public officers—the Chaplain of the Nebraska Legislature. Once it is determined as the district court found and as we have shown that the chaplain's pay is for the performance of a predominantly secular function, there can be no constitutional objection to that payment any more than one could object to similar payments to the legislature's clerk or sergeant-at-arms.

Morever, even if a reasonable objection could be raised to a paid legislative chaplaincy if it were a novel concept, the fact is that paid chaplaincies have been in the legislatures of this country from the very beginningand in the Nebraska Legislature since statehood was achieved in 1867 (Pet. App. 11). It is certainly true, as this Court stated in Walz v. Tax Commission, supra, 397 U.S. at 678, that "no one acquires a vested or protected right in violation of the Constitution by long use, even when that span of time covers our entire national existence and indeed predates it.” But, by the same

32

token, "an unbroken practice” of paid legislative chaplaincies “is not something to be lightly cast aside" (ibid.).

In Walz, the Court found that the 200-year history of church property tax exemptions showed that such exemptions were not regarded as violative of the Constitution and that no threat to religious liberty had been posed. The Court's observations in Walz are equally applicable here. The two-century history of paid legislative chaplaincies in this country has not "given the remotest sign of leading to an established church or religion" (397 U.S. at 678). Nor is it plausible to suggest that paid legislative chaplaincies are "but the 'foot in the door' or the 'nose of the camel in the tent' leading to an established church” (ibid.). If paid legislative chaplaincies "can be seen as this first step toward 'establishment of religion, * * the second step has been long in coming. Any move that realistically establishes' a church or tends to do so can be dealt with 'while this Court sits'" (ibid.).

Thus, the Nebraska Legislature's chaplaincy practice does not involve any excessive government entanglement with religion. The Establishment Clause simply does not require "complete obliteration of all vestiges of religious tradition from our public life.” Colo v. Treasurer & Receiver General, supra, 392 N.E.2d at 1201. Rather, the courts, in grappling with the difficult and sensitive constitutional questions in this area, must demonstrate "the ability and willingness to distinguish between real threat and mere shadow." Abington School District v. Schempp, supra, 374 U.S. at 308 (Goldberg, J., concurring). This Nation's experience with paid legislative chaplaincies over the past 200 years confirms that the practice certainly poses no "real threat" to religious liberty and is, at most, a "mere shadow" of a threat in the eyes of few beholders—a shadow that entirely fades away in the light of history,

« ForrigeFortsett »